ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With the New Mexico Legislature set to reconvene in a few weeks for the 2020 legislative session, lawmakers and other stakeholders are reacting to the governor’s latest budget proposal.
A Democrat entering the second year of her first term, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham unveiled her nearly $7.7 billion dollar budget proposal Monday. The outlined spending plan calls for an 8.4% increase in spending with a 25% general fund reserve target.
One of the biggest parts of the governor’s spending proposal is a continuation of the so-called “moonshot” spending toward education.
As part of the continued education spending increase, Governor Lujan Grisham is calling for a 4% raise for all teachers and education employees.
President of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation union, Ellen Bernstein told KRQE News 13 Monday that she is encouraged with the governor’s education funding proposal.
“I think the teachers I represent will be pleased that the governor doesn’t think that last year was a one and done,” Bernstein said.
Alongside raises, the education spending proposal outlines an overall $200 million dollar increase in K-12 spending, including more funds for at-risk students.
“Keep in mind that we had cuts for 10 years, so I think that’s an effort to maintain forward movement,” Bernstein said.
A Democratic lawmaker who also sits on the Legislative Finance Committee, Senator Jacob Candelaria called the governor’s proposal “strong” in an interview Monday, but says he has questions about the education funding.
“I think a lot of important questions remain unasked,” Candelaria said. “Chief among them for me is how school districts across the state have actually spent the (2019 session) ‘moonshot’ money.”
Sen. Candelaria says he has run into difficulties in trying to find out how districts including Albuquerque Public Schools has spent the “moonshot” funding.
“It’s really frustrating as a legislator to be asked to again vote on a budget that increases funding for public education when school districts won’t come clean about how they’re actually spending the money and when the results we’re seeing just don’t cut it,” Sen. Candelaria said.
A Republican Senator on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Sander Rue says he too has questions about the governor’s proposal. Rue tells KRQE News 13 he wants to see if the state is investing enough in areas outside of education.
“The devil’s in the details, we’ll have to see how these things are parsed out, but again for me, the major thing is in the public safety arena, reducing the crime and violence in our neighborhoods,” said Senator Rue.
The state’s Legislative Finance Committee is expected to release its budget plan Tuesday. The leader of that committee, Democratic Senator John Arthur Smith told KRQE News 13 Monday he believes the committee’s recommendations may be pretty close to the governor’s.