SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) - The state Legislature has less than two days to come to an agreement on the public employee retirement swap, which plugs a $100 million hole in the already approved budget.
Late Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives concurred with the Senate changes to the $5.4 billion spending plan and New Mexico's film incentive program.
The House, however, did not agree to the Senate-amended version of House Bill 628, the public employee retirement swap. The Senate continued the 1.5 percent and 1.75 increased contribution for another two years.
However, there is a one-year sunset clause on the 1.75 percent if revenue estimates are higher than expected and if cash reserves remain at 5 percent of the overall budget.
"House Bill 628 is just a bump in the road," said Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming. "It's about $111 million to $115 million package, so obviously, it's a real key important bill."
Many representatives and Gov. Susana Martinez want to see at least the 1.5 percent contribution implemented permanently.
"Mandating a budget that will only fix it for a year or two, and we're going to be faced with the same issue in two years," said Martinez. "We can't continue to do that."
Smith said he believes both chambers can come to an agreement without going to a conference committee by Saturday at noon when the 60-day session ends.
"No. 1, I think you could see the House reconsider their vote on (HB 628)," said Smith. "And No. 2, you could see the Senate receding from their amendment. In both ways, you have a direct elevator to the fourth floor (the governor's office)."
If the Legislature does not agree on the retirement swap, the governor will have to either cut $100 million from the budget or call a special session.
The New Mexico Constitution requires a budget with forecast revenues and expenditures in balance.
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