February 2, 2020

Spending plan to increase pay for New Mexico’s teachers

A key House budget panel met Saturday to review a spending plan that offers higher K-12 teacher pay raises and more money for early childhood services than suggested by the Legislative Finance Committee.

The House Appropriations and Finance Committee reviewed a spending proposal that includes about $61 million more than recommended by the LFC, coming close to midway between Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s and the LFC’s competing budget plans, which featured a $132 million overall difference.

A document provided by the Legislative Finance Committee on Saturday shows that House Bill 2 will include $35 million more for public education and $4.7 million more for higher education than the LFC budget. It does not include money for the governor’s Opportunity Scholarship, which would cover public university education for New Mexico residents.

State Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said funding for the scholarship could still be offered in an amendment to House Bill 2 on Monday, when the committee plans to vote on the budget bill. It would then advance to the full House floor.

“I think it’s a very responsible budget from what I can see, and the work that we’ve done and the recommendations very closely working together with all the important players, including staff from both the governor’s office and working with members of the education committee,” Lundstrom said.

The bulk of the proposed $61 million House increase from the LFC recommendation — about $50 million — stems from increases to public school staff pay and $16 million more for the new Early Childhood Education and Care Department than in the LFC’s plan.

Overall, it is about a 0.8 percent increase from the LFC recommendation. But changes could be made prior to the committee’s planned Monday vote.

The Legislative Finance Committee’s $7.54 billion recommendation for fiscal year 2021 and Lujan Grisham’s $7.68 billion spending plan serve as reference points during ongoing budget negotiations.