SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The legislative session is officially underway. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham highlighted how she wants to spend what she called an unimaginable amount of money. The governor is proposing an $8.4 billion budget which is roughly a 13% increase over the last year.
Gov. Lujan Grisham says now is the time to help all New Mexicans with tax cuts and raises. This would start with teachers who she wants to receive a minimum 7% raise hike. “That would be the biggest pay bump in recent memory, and it would put us first in the region for average educator pay. They deserve it, and we can afford it, and it’s the right thing to do,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham.
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Due to the rise in COVID cases, the governor gave her State of the State address from her office. The Senate and House watched from their own chambers instead of meeting together. Lawmakers will now start tackling budget proposals to come up with their own.
Other proposals include raising salaries for state works, pouring more money into schools, and funding programs to hire and keep police officers. The governor is also proposing a sales tax cut saying it would be the first in 40 years and save more than $170 million every year.
Republicans fired back at the governor’s plans. Protests also broke out just as the governor started speaking. One man snuck into the media gallery while others started chanting from above the floor. The group was protesting the governor’s plans to make the state a hydrogen hub. There were also protests outside the Roundhouse. Some of them were against the requirement to show proof of vaccination and others were advocating for housing issues.
Since this is a 30-day session, legislators are limited on what bills they can introduce. Both parties agree they’ll make time to attack the state’s crime problem. While there’s a lot of excitement, the state has money to spend, it has some lawmakers calling for caution. “How do we spend our money wisely and how do we keep enough in reserves so if there is a downturn in the economy, we don’t see us furloughing, cuts, restricting agencies. Because New Mexico is infamous for that,” said Sen. George Munoz (D-Gallup).
“It’s a new game. We have the ability to sustain this type of spending if we don’t kill the golden goose in the process,” said Rep. Jim Townsend (R-Roswell).
To enter the Roundhouse, you must show a vaccination card or a negative COVID test. KRQE News 13 did spot some people trying to get in without a vaccination card but security would not let them in. Republican Senator, Cliff Pirtle, also refused to wear his mask which is required in the Roundhouse.