Budget with 6.5% increase approved by House

The full state House of Representatives approved the budget package following a lengthy debate on the floor Wednesday. HB 2 and HB 3, were combined to present the state budget and the House approved the bills on a bipartisan 53-to-16 vote. “This is a $10.18 billion budget which is a 6.5 percent recurring increase from … Continue reading Budget with 6.5% increase approved by House

Budget with 6.5% increase approved by House

The full state House of Representatives approved the budget package following a lengthy debate on the floor Wednesday.

HB 2 and HB 3, were combined to present the state budget and the House approved the bills on a bipartisan 53-to-16 vote.

“This is a $10.18 billion budget which is a 6.5 percent recurring increase from last year. We’re investing heavily in areas like community safety, education, infrastructure, health care, housing, and much more,”  Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, said in a press conference detailing the record budget bill prior to the House session.

Small announced that he would not support any amendments or floor substitutes.

Legislators nevertheless presented a floor substitute and three amendments. The House approved one amendment.

The amendment that passed was proposed by Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, and  removes the public school year minimum 180 instructional day requirement, which is not mentioned by name in the budget package.

Related: $10.1 billion budget heads to House floor

The budget package states that the New Mexico Public Education Department shall not approve operating budgets of school districts or charter schools that have not historically had fewer instructional hours or were previously on a four-day school week.

Small considered this to be an unfriendly amendment due to the funding in the appropriations bill not being used for rule adoption. The House voted 42-26 to adopt the amendment.

Staff pass out copies of HB 2/3 to legislators' workspaces before the House session January 31, 2024.
Staff pass out copies of HB 2/3 to legislators’ workspaces before the House session January 31, 2024.

House Minority Leader T. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, said that although he understands that the legislature is on a deadline, he had a floor substitute due to a worry that the proposed budget is “growing government, instead of growing the economy.”

Lane’s substitute kept the recurring funds intact while removing non-recurrent spending deemed unnecessary by Lane while adding more funding for roads.

Small considered the substitute unfriendly due to it leaving out funding for Water Trust Board projects.

The House tabled the substitute on a 43-to-25 vote.

Rep. John Block, R-Alamogordo, proposed an amendment to the bill that raised the Developmental Disability Waiver program appropriations.

Small considered the amendment unfriendly due to the already existing increase in the current budget along with an in-progress rate study. The House tabled that amendment on a 40-to-26 vote.

Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, introduced an amendment that would have prevented the New Mexico Environment Department from implementing or enforcing any rule establishing a new vehicle emission standard including an electric vehicle mandate.

Small asked Scott if this was the appropriate place for a policy discussion, to which Scott answered in the affirmative.

The House tabled Scott’s amendment on a 43-25 vote.

After the amendment’s vote, House Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, asked to close debate, citing the House rule that a majority of the chamber could end debate on a vote once the debate reached three hours.

Scott said he still had the floor and wished to propose more amendments as well as close on his debate.

Scott claimed that since House Speaker Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, went to Chasey to close debate while Scott held the floor, Martinez went against House rules.

After a short break to see what the rules are, it was determined that Scott could deliver closing remarks but could not propose his other two amendments.

The budget includes:

  • $1.2 billion for natural resources, housing and innovation
  • $24 million to judicial branch agencies
  • $7 million to support victim advocates, sexual assault victims and supplement federal grants for crime victims
  • $11.7 million for the New Mexico Department of Health
  • $1.96 billion to the Health Care Authority Department and $180 million for Medicaid
  • $3 million for tribal health councils
  • $19.6 million to expand Pre-K
  • $4.43 billion in recurring funds for public schools
  • $50 million to the tribal Educational Trust Fund
  • $20 million to pilot and evaluate evidence-based strategies to improve the Children, Youth and Families Department
  • The Higher Education Department will receive $1.3 billion in recurring funds
  • $100 million to develop a strong workforce
  • $10 billion to establish a new Green Bank
  • $300 million in the Lands of  Enchantment Legacy Fund for water conservation, outdoor recreation, agriculture, and wildlife protection
  • $150 million to the Department of Transportation for major infrastructure, maintenance and road improvements

Prior to the House floor session, Democrats from the House Appropriations and Finance Committee held a press conference to discuss the contents of the budget.

“We have worked hard through the interim hearing from state agencies and talking with New Mexicans from all across the state on how to build the most dynamic, durable budget that we’ve yet had,” Small said.

Small said the budget process was “the most open and transparent process we’ve had yet.”

The budget process this year did not have executive sessions in any of the committees in which the budget was discussed during either the interim committees or during the session.

“We had lots and lots of public comments— over 60 public comments— this is only the second year where the public has rightfully been able to (comment) on agency budgets, and it’s made us stronger, providing all of that input and participating has made us better,” Small said.

The bill passed the House Appropriations and Finance Committee Jan. 29 on a 13-3 vote.

The budget now heads to the Senate.

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