Lawmakers push bill to save UNM sports teams

Politics - Government

It was a huge controversy last summer: People packed the UNM Board of Regents meeting to protest cutting some of the school’s sports programs, but lawmakers are now stepping in to save the programs.

Several House Democratic floor leaders filed a bill that would give the university $2 million to bring back skiing, beach volleyball and men’s soccer. It would also demand transparency about the university’s sports funding.

“We are in the middle of a budgeting process, in the middle of an appropriations process, and UNM is a part of that process,” said Rep. Javier Martinez, (D) Albuquerque. “This is another way to bring transparency to something that has shown time and time again to not be transparent.”

“I think they do need the funding and need some money to get these sports programs back in place,” said Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, (D) Albuquerque. “I think it’s a reasonable ask and with the accountability piece in there, there shouldn’t be any problems.”

House Bill 320 does two things: First, the university’s Board of Regents would be required to send a financial report each fiscal year to the legislative finance committee. Second, it would give the university $2 million from the general fund to reinstate skiing, beach volleyball and men’s soccer programs, which the Board of Regents cut on the recommendation of the school’s president and athletic director. 

House Republicans like the accountability aspect of the bill, but oppose giving $2 million to the school.

“I support skiing, I support soccer, I support those programs and we need to put those back in,” said Rep. Kelly Fajardo, (R) Los Lunas. “But is it the legislature’s job to fix UNM’s budget?”

For years, UNM has gone through money struggles and regents wanted to remedy that by cutting those sports programs to save close to $2 million in spending.

A representative with the university said UNM did not ask the legislature for the money.

The university’s ski teams, men’s soccer and beach volleyball programs are supposed to be cut by summer 2019.

This move by House Democrats is supported by the governor. She has said before that she wants those sports programs back.

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