New Mexico Senate approves $10.19 billion budget
Update 2:15 p.m. on Feb. 12, 2024
The New Mexico Senate today approved the $10.19 billion spending plan to fund state government over the next year, with sponsors and supporters calling it a wise way to invest record revenues to see future returns.
Senators voted 31-10 in favor of the bill. That includes six Republicans, including some on the Senate Finance Committee who lauded the bill.
One Democrat, Bill Tallman of Albuquerque, voted against it. He said the bill didn’t adequately fund food banks, reform capital outlay, tax liquor excise or pay for a downtown Albuquerque, among other reasons.
The budget passed after more than an hour of debate. No senator offered amendments.
See below for more details on what the budget includes. Source New Mexico will have a full story soon.
A Senate committee’s plan for spending $10.19 billion to fund New Mexico state government will be considered today on the Senate floor.
The Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved its budget over the weekend. It would spend $32 million more than its counterpart approved by the House of Representatives on Jan. 31.
The difference means the Senate is seeking a 6.8% increase in spending over the last fiscal year. Like in the House, senators reined in spending in recognition that oil and gas taxes and royalties are predicted to level out. State lawmakers in three of the last five years increased spending by more than 10%. The House version this year has called for a 6.5% increase in spending, while Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called for a nearly 10% increase in her budget proposal.
Legislative Finance Committee director Charles Sallee, whose nonpartisan committee helps both chambers prepare their budgets, has told lawmakers that there will come a time when they will have to create a budget that only increases spending by 2.5% each year. But by making some tough choices like the ones in the Senate budget, he said Sunday, lawmakers can push that day down the road.
Sen. George Muñoz, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was less optimistic. While he voted along with eight other senators Sunday to unanimously send the budget to the full Senate, he also criticized state agencies for what he said was “greed” and reckless requests for additional funding.
“We could see a day of reckoning a lot quicker than what you think,” Muñoz (D-Gallup) said to Sallee on Sunday, “if anything happens in the market. Thank God the feds and them are not forecasting a recession and they’re starting to think inflation is evening off.”
The Senate budget arrives at roughly the same spending target as the one passed earlier in the session by the House, but differs in a few areas.
For example, the Senate budget appropriates $220 million on road maintenance, which is $70 million more than the House budget. It also seeks a little more than $1.3 billion for one-time appropriations across state agencies, which is $58 million more than the House recommended.
The Senate budget would also put $50 million into a trust fund for affordable housing development, which is $5 million more than the House recommended.
Both budgets include a salary increase for state workers between 2% and 4%.
New Mexico’s state representatives largely adopted the House Appropriations and Finance Committee’s budget recommendations when its bill reached the House floor on Jan. 31.
Lawmakers added an amendment on the floor that requires that money appropriated to the state public education department not be used to require school districts to meet for 180 days a year.
The Senate Finance Committee’s budget contains that same language. The initiative to require local school districts to count their instructional calendar by days, not hours, is a priority for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
If the Senate approves the budget during its hearing today, both chambers will reconcile any differences and then send it to Lujan Grisham for approval. They must do so before the 30-day legislative session ends at noon on Thursday.