SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A special legislative session and massive department cuts, particularly to education, are looming if the governor and lawmakers can’t come to an agreement on how to fix fiscal year 2018’s roughly $350 million shortfall.
The regular 60-day session ends on Saturday.
When lawmakers patched the $69 million budget hole for the current 2017 fiscal year at the start of the session, education took a $46 million cut to classroom spending.
Looking ahead, Democrats don’t want to cut anymore, anywhere.
“You look at all the different agencies and cuts that have already taken place and then on top of that having to possibly look at further cuts. It really is not even at the point of cutting services, we’re amputating now,” Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, member of the Senate Finance Committee and Legislative Education Study Committee.
Sen. Morales says Democrats have proposed several possible solutions to the problem, like increasing revenue by way of a cigarette tax increase and gas tax increase. If these bills are passed, they would shore up the $350 million hole and put money into reserves, he says.
However, the governor has made it clear she will not support tax increases, something Sen. Morales says she needs to look past in this crisis.
“It’s irresponsible to hold to a campaign promise that sounds good in a speech, saying that there will be no raising taxes, but when you’re looking at seeing the cuts that have taken place, and you’re seeing the impact that it’s having on our state, we need to bring all options on the table,” Sen. Morales said.
If the governor does veto the measures, government agencies like the courts and corrections face a more than 5 percent cut each.
For education, that means a cut of more than $100 million. Sen. Morales says too many schools might not even be able to operate at that point.
On Thursday, Santa Fe Public Schools plans to release students early so that they can rally and protest these potential cuts at the Roundhouse.
The Governor’s Office sent this statement to KRQE News 13:
That union-backed political activists would even consider shortchanging our kids as a blatant political stunt is despicable. Governor Martinez is committed to protecting classroom spending, while the Senate is pushing to gut it – along with massive tax increases on our families and businesses. The Governor isn’t interested in these political games, and she won’t sign either of those.”
If a special legislative session is conducted, that, in itself, will cost taxpayers a nice chunk of change.