Lawmakers hammering out the details of $7 billion budget bill

Politics - Government

Lawmakers are deadlocked over the state’s $7 billion budget. The House and Senate agree on budget priorities but they disagree on the details, and they’re running out of time to work out their differences. 

Wednesday night, the House wouldn’t sign off on 123 changes the Senate made to the budget. They are at odds over some big issues including road funding, University of New Mexico sports and teachers’ salaries. 

“First and foremost is the teacher education employees compensation piece. As the budget left the House we were going to ensure that whether you’re an educational assistant, janitor in a school, teacher or principal, you were gonna get the same raise of 6 percent. That was changed so that pay increases would average a total of six percent,” Speaker of the House Brian Egolf said. “This means that some districts would give a principal a 25 percent raise to no raise in educational assistants, and we want to make sure the language is in there to make sure the money and the pay increases go all the way down to the least paid employees in the school districts.” 

The $7 billion budget bill appropriates more than $3 billion for public education, nearly $1 billion for the Human Services Department, and hundreds of millions toward fixing roads.

The Senate Finance Committee made a lot of language changes to the bill, including giving the Department of Transportation the authority to decide how to spend its $250 million. The House would rather set how much is spent on different road projects. 

Another battle, House Speaker Egolf says lawmakers and the governor remain committed to allocating money to reinstate UNM sports that were cut last year. But Sen. John Arther Smith has described that approach as “micromanaging” the university’s affairs. 

Both chambers will send representatives to a conference committee where they will iron out their differences. 

“We’re not seeking a change in the amount of money spent, we want the language associated with it, so we’re really close,” House Speaker Egolf said.

KRQE News 13 reached out to the chair of the Senate Finance Committee but didn’t hear bak. 

Lawmakers had a lot of extra cash to work with this session because of the billion dollar surplus from oil in the southern parts of New Mexico. 

The conference committee is scheduled for sometime on Thursday. When they agree on the changes, the bill will head to the governor. 

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