New Mexico lawmakers continue talks on budget, federal relief

Legislature

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Time is running out in the 60-day legislative session and the $7.4 billion budget still needs work. Legislators are frantically trying to figure out how the federal relief money will impact it. New Mexico is set to get about $1.6 billion from President Biden’s America Rescue Plan and lawmakers want a huge chunk of that m money to go to the unemployment fund.

Lawmakers on the powerful Senate Finance Committee briefly discussed the budget Monday morning saying they want to make tweaks to the proposed $7.4 billion budget. They still want to funnel about half the money towards public education and lawmakers are wanting to make sure state employees including teachers, get a 1.5% pay bump; with the state getting $1.6 billion from the relief bill. They want to put about $600 million into the state’s unemployment trust fund.

Legislators say small businesses then won’t have to increase their contributions into that fund to help with unemployment benefits. “We tried to capture that as much as we can as the appropriating body of the state to protect New Mexico to protect our small businesses to protect our employees,” said Senator George Munoz (D-Gallup), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Lawmakers also propose about $50 million from the federal relief money to go to Medicaid. They’re also looking to increase the governor’s opportunity scholarship from $5 million to $7 million. The Senate Finance Committee plans on bringing the budget back up again Monday and, hopefully, debate it on the Senate floor no later than Thursday.

Lawmakers have already passed legislation that would provide hundreds of millions in loans and grants for New Mexico businesses.

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