NM House passes $10.2 billion budget

Bipartisan amendment fights back on Gov’s 180-day school push 

By: - January 31, 2024 6:11 pm

New Mexico House Democrats speak Wednesday morning about their budget priorities. The full House on Wednesday afternoon sent along a $10.18 billion budget to the Senate. (Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source NM)

The New Mexico House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to send its nearly $10.2 billion spending plan to the Senate, a budget that its Democratic sponsors tout as a historic investment in state programs but also one that reflects the end of record revenues the state enjoyed in recent years. 

After one hour of introduction and two hours of debate, the bill that will fund state government for the next fiscal year passed 53-16, with a handful of Republicans joining the heavily Democrat majority. It now goes to the Senate. 

“We are continuing to make new investments in the places that matter most for New Mexicans from economic diversification and new jobs, to health care professionals, our education system, public safety, infrastructure and housing,” Rep. Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces) told fellow lawmakers in asking for their votes at the end of debate. “This budget reflects all of those priorities in a considered and collaborative way.”

Members of the House Republican minority introduced an amended budget that they said would better reflect their priorities, seeking the consideration of a 238-page budget that would replace the majority’s 255-page budget, but the House quickly shot the replacement down.

A larger breakdown of the budget is available to read here

New House budget wrangles record revenue again, but experts warn it won’t last much longer

Gail Armstrong (R-Magdalena) convinced lawmakers to adopt a one-sentence amendment to the budget to address how the state would fund public education. It requires that money appropriated to the New Mexico Public Education Department not be used to require school districts to meet for 180 days a year. 

A proposal from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would require schools across the state, including some in rural areas that historically have only met four days a week, to meet the 180-day minimum. It’s drawn concern from rural Democrats and Republicans, many of whom voted together to add the clause to the budget bill. 

Armstrong told colleagues that putting the language in the budget was a way for the Legislature to assert its powers and show a unified voice against the governor’s policy. A bipartisan group of representatives voted to include the amendment in the House budget bill.

Including Armstrong’s amendment, the House sent along a general fund budget of $10.18 billion, an increase of $621 million, or 6.5%, over last year. It’s less than the $10.5 billion Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to spend in the next fiscal year, but slightly more than what the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee recommended.

What the budget represents, according to Small (D-Las Cruces), is an effort to wisely spend the projected $3.4 billion budget surplus while also limiting spending growth to prevent sharper cuts in the future. 

He touted it as the product of hundreds of hours of work and the most transparent budget process in history, thanks to the amount of public comments the committee solicited in recent months.

The budget also maintains nearly one-third in reserves of the total recurring funding approved. 

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Patrick Lohmann
Patrick Lohmann

Patrick Lohmann has been a reporter since 2007, when he wrote stories for $15 apiece at a now-defunct tabloid in Gallup, his hometown. Since then, he's worked at UNM's Daily Lobo, the Albuquerque Journal and the Syracuse Post-Standard.