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.
Stressing priorities and the state’s shaky energy revenue source, Gov. Susana Martinez proposed a budget with a $228 million increase in recurring state spending. That comes out to a 3.7 percent increase over the previous year’s budget. At a press conference in a downtown Albuquerque building that houses the state Corrections Department, Martinez said her proposed budget emphasizes “three things above all others”— education, public safety and jobs. “Keeping New Mexicans safe, reforming and improving public education, and creating jobs by diversifying our economy and helping small businesses grow,” she said. The proposal comes even as legislators warn about the effects of low oil prices that show no sign of increasing.
New Mexico Political Report recently wrote about New Mexico’s trouble with accurately predicting future state revenues. The problem, it turns out, is a common one among many states and the projections are only becoming more complex each year. In the past 25 years, states revenue projections have become less and less accurate, according to a report released in March by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. This is largely because state revenue sources are becoming increasingly volatile. Chief among them is the corporate tax, a point that New Mexico Political Report highlighted last week.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]U.S. SENATOR TOM UDALL delivered a speech on the Senate floor today urging Congress to reject the unprecedented cuts in services proposed in the Republican budget – ranging from Medicare and child care to education and law enforcement. Watch the video or read his remarks below:[/box]
Mr. President, last week, the Senate Budget Committee gave a green light to the Republican budget. A caution light was more in order.
It calls for $4.7 trillion dollars in non-defense spending cuts over the next 10 years and no increases in revenue. Where would those cuts come from? They would be piled on the backs of the middle class, the elderly, and children.
They would cut the Earned Income Tax Credit, slash Medicare and Medicaid, child care, Head Start, education, public safety, law enforcement.
And – just for good measure – the Republican budget rolls back reforms on Wall Street.
In a press conference following the Senate adjourning sine die, the Senate Majority Leader said he believed that the chamber had a productive session, at least when it came to passing Senate legislation. He repeatedly said that he wasn’t sure what happened when bills went over to the House once the Senate passed the legislation, which he said the Senate did effectively. One highlight that Sanchez mentioned was the economic bills that passed the Senate. “I think the Senate Democrats had a good economic plan, a ready to work plan,” Sanchez told reporters in his office. He said they passed most of the plan, though the controversial increase in the gas tax did not pass.
“We need to produce a budget for the state of New Mexico. That’s one of our main jobs,” Speaker of the House Don Tripp, R-Socorro, said shortly before the House voted to send the state budget to the governor’s desk. The House concurred with the changes made to House Bills 2 and 4, which make up the state budget, unanimously. The budget passed 67-0. There was very little debate, only Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, noting that a lot of the changes added by the Senate were part of the failed Democratic floor amendment.
With crude prices plummeting Monday to a six-year low, state senators approved a $6.2 billion state budget with fingers crossed that the cost of oil will at least stay steady enough to preserve funding plans until the next fiscal year. Sen. John Arthur Smith, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said steep drops in oil and natural gas prices meant a $35 million reduction in total revenue available for appropriations. “We’re moving ahead precariously,” said the Democrat from Deming, adding that “we’re hoping that this next year will be a better year, but we’re very concerned.”
The Senate’s budget for the most part closely tracks the House version. The Senate version has an added $12.9 million to result in a small 1.3 percent increase across all state government programs.
That $12.9 million was divvied up for additional investments for the public schools’ K-3 Plus interventions and increases for the Developmental Disability waiver and Family, Infant and Toddler Programs. It also includes a salary boost for nurses and allied professions and a restoration of funds cut in previous years for public broadcasting and higher education athletic programs.
The Senate also added $2.5 million in non-recurring spending to the state’s fund for the Local Economic Development Act. The cabinet-level Economic Development Department had requested $50 million for the program, which allows local governments to create public-private partnerships for economic development projects.