After a marathon all-nighter in the House that mostly involved debate to reinstate the death penalty, the state Senate moved briskly Thursday morning to adopt the House changes to budget fixes and adjourn. The move brought an end to a chaotic special legislative session, which began last Friday. Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, lamented that the Senate did not hear crime bills passed by the House. Yet he spoke highly of the House’s budget compromise with the Senate, which scaled back proposed higher education cuts that singled out the University of New Mexico. “There seemed to be a little bit of overemphasis on popping UNM a little too hard,” Ingle told reporters after the session.
The House sent the one bill truly necessary during this year’s special session back to the Senate with some changes. The bill would find unused money in reserves and “sweep” them to the general fund, to pay the rest of the deficit in an already-concluded budget year and to cut much of the current year’s deficit. In all, it would add $316 million, the bulk of which comes from the tobacco settlement permanent fund, to fix the budget deficit. In the bill, $131 million will go to the budget year that ended on June 30. Another $88 million from that would go toward the current fiscal year for this year’s budget gap.
The House voted to pass a large bill related to budget cuts Wednesday night, sending the amended bill back to the Senate, who are expected to be back in the Roundhouse Thursday. It took a full three hours of debate, largely on a large amendment put forward by Republicans. Republicans, however, paused the debate and went into caucus for three and a half hours (Democrats held a shorter caucus at the same time). The final bill passed on a 36-32 vote. The amendment passed on a 36-32 vote.
Legislators on opposing sides of the aisle are using remarkably similar arguments on two bills that would delay tax breaks and subsidies to businesses to help balance New Mexico’s projected $460 million shortfall between last year and this year. One would delay incoming corporate tax cuts for two years, saving the state an estimated $13.8 million this fiscal year, according to the Legislative Finance Committee,
The other bill would generate $20 million by cutting New Mexico’s film industry subsidy by that much this year. While both bills bear similarities in delaying tax breaks and subsidies for businesses, they’re being both supported and opposed on nearly opposite partisan lines. Democratic leadership in the Roundhouse argued that businesses must participate in the “shared sacrifice” of cuts to solve the state’s budget crisis when supporting the corporate tax cut delays that the Senate passed last weekend. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, emphasized this point when criticizing proposed cuts to services in the Republican budget plan Monday morning in his office.
Several lawmakers groused about losing projects in their districts, but the House approved a bill Monday slashing 119 stalled infrastructure projects at a cost of $12.5 million. This piece originally appeared on New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. Senate Bill 8 moves on to Gov. Susana Martinez for her signature. The legislation essentially moves nearly $90 million in unspent state dollars to New Mexico’s general fund as lawmakers try to backfill a deficit of nearly $600 million. SB8 also cuts earmarks for water, tribal and colonias by 1 percent. But the 119 projects, virtually all of them earmarked by individual lawmakers, drew the most debate as the bill moved through the House and Senate.
Showing possible signs of movement from the Senate Monday, the chamber’s majority and minority leadership have been spotted around their respective offices in the Roundhouse even though the chamber voted to adjourn early Saturday morning. Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, told NM Political Report Monday that he, President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, are among the senators who returned to the state capitol building as the House hears, and amends, budget bills originally sent from the Senate. Sanchez wouldn’t go into detail about what they were doing or if they are going to hear any House bills, but confirmed there is some sort of conversations happening. “We’re visiting, trying to figure some things out,” Sanchez said. Sanchez didn’t say if they were speaking to the House.
A new proposal from House Republican leaders to fix the state budget deficit would cut the same amount of money—$89.6 million—as the Senate Democratic leaders’ plan. But House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, and state Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, emphasized different priorities in the House Republicans’ plan, which they presented to reporters Monday morning in a press conference. Namely, Republicans said their plan swaps cuts proposed in the Senate bill to K-12 education, the state Children, Youth and Families Department, the Department of Public Safety and services for sexual assault victims in the state Department of Health budget for deeper cuts in higher education. House Republicans also emphasized that their proposal raises no taxes. “The last part is very important because New Mexicans cannot afford to pay more taxes,” Tripp told reporters while announcing the proposal.
While you were at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque or enjoying a nice weekend throughout the state, legislators were in Santa Fe, at the Roundhouse for a special session. Gov. Susana Martinez called the special session to deal with the gaping budget deficit that stretched over two budget years. But she also called for the special session to expand penalties on certain crimes. The weekend was very eventful. The Senate passed eight bills related to the budget in twelve hours, then adjourned, putting the ball in the House’s court.
A House committee held off on any changes to a bill providing big cuts across most state agencies to give lawmakers and the public more time to review the deal. This came even as the panel, the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, approved a bill to shift capital outlay funds for infrastructure projects and another to sweep unused reserves to the general fund to shore up the state’s large budget deficit. While the amendment to deepen some cuts, and halt others, did not go forward it will likely be the structure for a version to be heard on the House floor, as early as Monday. The proposal on the bill to cut spending would have deepened cuts for many state agencies. The committee amended the Senate bill that provided spending cuts to cut most state agencies by 5.5 percent instead of the 5 percent in the original Senate version.
A House committee voted Saturday night to reject a bill that would delay a corporate tax cut for two years. The corporate tax delay, which narrowly passed the Senate the night before as part of a wider budget package, would have saved nearly $13 million in the current fiscal year and more in the next fiscal year according to analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee. The Taxation and Revenue Department, part of Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, estimated it would save much less, saying it would be $5 million in the current fiscal year and again less than the LFC predicted in the next. “We are not asking for a tax increase,” Rep. Bill McCamley, the Las Cruces Democrat who carried the bill on the House side, said. “We are merely asking that we delay this tax.