The Legislature sent a final $6.2 billion budget to the governor’s desk with less than 24 hours left in the legislative session. The budget is the main reason for the Legislature to meet each year and is really the only “must-pass” piece of legislation. The House voted 57-10 to concur with changes made by the Senate that cut large amounts from the budget. The governor will now get the budget and will be able to sign or veto, including line-item vetoes. The cuts came in large part because of plummeting oil and natural gas prices.
The Senate passed a version of the budget that included budget cuts across the board on Monday. The Senate voted 39-1 on the budget that bears little resemblance to what many predicted months or even weeks earlier—or even from what passed the House just days ago. Originally drafted by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, HB 2 was changed dramatically by the Senate Finance Committee after Chairman John Arthur, D-Deming, Smith shed some light on what he called a “dire” circumstance with the state’s budget. Smith told the body that some of the changes included reductions of $125 million in fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Smith said the committee came up with additional cuts and a provision that would allow Gov. Susana Martinez to add more cuts if need be.
A key Senate committee voted unanimously on Saturday to heavily amend the state budget originally drafted by the House. The Senate Finance Committee met briefly to approve an amendment, of about 200 pages to HB 2, the budget bill. The change would include a one half percent cut to all state programs for the current fiscal year and cuts ranging from two to four percent for most agencies in the 2017 fiscal year. After committee chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, spoke this week about the “dire” budget situation the state is in, committee members worked with the Legislative Finance Council to draft an amendment to HB 2. “We’re going to keep our fingers crossed the decline is going to flatten out,” Smith said.
Veronica C. García, Ed.D. is the executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a non-profit dedicated to promoting the well being of children, youth, and families. New Mexico has the highest rate of child poverty, the highest unemployment, and the third highest child hunger. We simply cannot deal with the current revenue crisis by cutting programs and services for children, which would exacerbate these already critical problems. We did not take a balanced approach to revenue shortfalls during the recession, and we are still feeling the negative effects of that. We must accept the fact that our tax-cut approach to economic development has failed, bite the bullet, and raise new revenue. And we must do it in a way that protects our working families.
That $30 million in new money that the House version of the state budget relies on? It’s not there. Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, told reporters this during a sobering update on the challenging budget situation in a press conference Thursday morning. “We’re not going to have quick remedy,” he said. And it isn’t just this year’s budget.
Betty Patterson is the President of the National Education Association–New Mexico
Students are at the center of our existence at the National Education Association–New Mexico. Student success is best supported when every student has a high-quality professional education team there for them. House Bill 2 (HB2), the budget bill, as sent by the House to the Senate moves our state in the wrong direction. An amendment to HB2 moves our state in the right direction by proposing to remove $8.5 million to fund the destructive and failed “merit pay” program of the Public Education Department (PED). The amendment converts those funds so they will be spent by districts to pay for a 16 % increase school employees will otherwise pay themselves for health insurance next year.
Crafting this year’s state budget will be a challenge and some long-held assumptions and principles will be tested. That was the message from Sen. John Arthur Smith, the famously fiscally conservative and pessimistic chair of the Senate Finance Committee, as he gave a short preview of the budget on Monday morning. The Deming Democrat spoke on the Senate floor, just two days after the House passed their version of the budget. His committee will now begin the review of the budget. “We’re real concerned about getting through the fiscal year we’re in,” Smith said.
The word of the day on Saturday was ‘sweeps’ when it came to balancing the state budget. The House of Representatives voted 46-23 in favor of the bill that would ‘sweep,’ or transfer, money from other state accounts to pay for the state budget. The vote came shortly after the chamber passed the $6.3 billion state budget. Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque, described his bill as necessary to balance the budget, and said that the transfers were done in a prudent way. Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, called it, “”probably the toughest bill that there will ever be in the session.”
The House of Representatives passed the state’s $6.32 billion budget Saturday morning amid falling oil prices. The bill passed on a 38-31 vote, with two Democrats joining the Republican bloc in voting on the bill. “We did the best we could with the revenues that are there,” House Appropriations and Finance Committee Chair Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, said when presenting the bill. Larrañaga said Medicaid, education, public safety, corrections and early childhood funding marked the top priorities. “Almost all of the increases are in five particular areas in this budget,” he said.
The latest dire predictions for the budget came from the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, just a day before legislators gather and Gov. Susana Martinez gives her State of the State Address. In an online newsletter previewing the session, the Chamber started the discussion of the budget by saying, “It’s not going to be a fun year.” The reason? Oil prices. The budget projections assumed nearly $50 per barrel of oil.