House sends budget bill to governor

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

The state House of Representatives voted Wednesday to send a $9.57 billion budget bill to the governor for her approval. On a voice vote, the chamber concurred with the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 2, the last procedural step to send the bill to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. The Senate amendments include, among other changes, an additional $130 million in recurring spending for initiatives to address hunger and new investments in the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship college tuition fund. But concerns were raised on the House floor about the way the Senate Finance Committee made some extra budget adjustments just a day after the committee had already approved the bill. That action, which took place Sunday morning, annoyed Republican senators on the committee and raised questions about behind-the-scenes deals and political pressure for changes that may have come from the Governor’s Office.

Senate passes $9.57 billion budget amid accusations of backroom shenanigans

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New

The state Senate passed a nearly $9.6 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year Sunday amid accusations the proposed budget was hijacked at the eleventh hour. 

Discussion on the proposed budget, which would increase spending by almost 14%, or more than $1 billion, also came with a warning from the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee: The level of spending is unsustainable. “New Mexico had better be prepared in our future for the plateauing of oil and gas, and that’s not too many years away,” said Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup. “We’ve increased our recurring expenses to the tune of about 30% over the last three years, and that’s pretty much an unsustainable number,” he said. The Senate voted 25-16 to approve House Bill 2, which heads back to the House for a concurrence vote. Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, joined all 15 Republican senators in voting against the proposed budget.

Revised $9.57 billion spending plan slashes transfer to permanent fund

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

The Senate Finance Committee endorsed a revised $9.57 billion spending plan Saturday that would increase the state’s spending in the upcoming fiscal year by nearly 14%. The full Senate is expected to consider the proposed budget on the floor Sunday afternoon. Tax rebates for New Mexicans are still on the table but what the final figure will be is still up in the air amid ongoing discussions at the Roundhouse on an omnibus tax policy bill. Charles Sallee, deputy director for budget for the Legislative Finance Committee, said the Senate’s proposed budget assumes rebates of $500 for single filers and $1,000 for joint filers — less than proposed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Regardless of what the amount turns out to be, Sen. George Muñoz, a Gallup Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said the spending plan includes something for everybody.

House passes $9.4B budget; gov signals she wants changes

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

At the halfway point of the 60-day legislative session, New Mexico’s proposed budget is halfway to the governor’s desk. The $9.43 billion spending plan, which includes average 5% pay raises for state government employees and leaves room for rebates for taxpayers, is headed to the Senate Finance Committee after passing the House 52-17 Thursday. Seven Republicans joined all 45 Democrats in the House in voting to advance House Bill 2. During a three-hour discussion and debate on the spending plan — the highest in state history — Republicans who voted against it raised concerns about the budget’s proposed 12.4% increase in spending, given the state’s financial peaks and valleys. Minority Leader Ryan Lane of Aztec said what gave him the most “heartburn” was the proposed spending increase comes on the heels of a 14% jump the year before.

$9.4 billion budget bill seeks to turn ‘now money’ into ‘future money’

By Daniel Chacon, The Santa Fe New Mexican

The state of New Mexico has been enjoying the spoils of record-breaking fossil fuel revenues in the last few years. But those years may be numbered, and a $9.43 billion spending plan the House Appropriations and Finance Committee endorsed Wednesday is designed to prepare state government for dips in the oil and gas industry and a future when production levels will start to decline. The proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year would increase spending by about $1 billion, or just over 12%, and put reserves at 30%. House Bill 2 cleared the committee on a 14-3 vote Wednesday, with all three votes against coming from Republicans. While it spends about the same amount of money as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham suggested in her budget proposal, there are some significant differences between the two documents — the House proposal would spend less on child care and on the Opportunity Scholarship Fund that helps many New Mexicans pay for college.

Lawmakers begin to examine differences in executive and legislative spending plans

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

A showdown is brewing between the executive and legislative branches of government over two of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s legislative priorities: free meals for students and paying for teachers’ health insurance premiums.

While the governor’s executive budget recommendation includes funding for both initiatives, the spending plan put forth by the Legislative Finance Committee doesn’t have funding for either. The chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee called the $100 million proposal to cover the cost of health insurance premiums for all school personnel unsustainable. “It’s not well vetted,” Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, said after the committee examined the differences between the two spending plans. “The governor is going to have to convince us that it’s sustainable and won’t create inequities within agencies that don’t get their health care paid for,” he said. A spokeswoman for the governor did not return a message seeking comment late Monday.