SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – After a busy week, legislators are scheduled to tackle the big-picture item of the session: the state budget. This afternoon, Friday January 28, the Senate Finance Committee will meet to learn just how much money the state’s general fund holds.

The general fund, as its name implies, is the state’s pool of funds to be used for most any public purpose. Cash from the fund goes to the state’s operating budget, the main distribution program that funds schools, public health, the court system, etc.

This year, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) has predicted a growth in the state’s general fund. “Growth in general fund revenue estimates driven by a stronger economy and continued booming oil production coming out of the pandemic provide historic opportunities for the state,” they wrote in their fiscal year 2023 budget recommendation.

Overall, the state is expected to have a little over $9 billion in general fund revenue, according to the LFC. Of that, about $1.6 billion is “new money” that hasn’t already been planned for in previous years.

KRQE News 13 previously detailed some key differences between how the Governor recommends spending the money and how the LFC recommends spending the funds. Ultimately, it’s likely that a compromise between both proposals will be made by the end of the 2022 legislative session.

Several other committees will also meet throughout the day. Here are some key things to look out for.

Funding education

  • Today, Friday January 28, there will be a joint House and Senate Education Committee hearing on the public education budget for fiscal year 2023.
  • On the table is House Bill 57, which would allocate funds for school busses and school transportation across the state. The bill would, in effect, require the state’s Public Education Department to give schools the same allocations as they received in the previous two years, according to a Legislative Finance Committee fiscal report.
  • KRQE News 13 previously reported on potential issues in school bus funding. The complex funding system sometimes underfunds districts and overfunds others at other times, data from the Public Education Department reveals.
  • Legislators will also discuss House Bill 103, which would give Central New Mexico Community College $5 million to start a “venture studio.” The studio would “build and fund start-ups with product, legal, marketing, design, and development needs to help grow companies from idea to execution and beyond,” according to a Legislative Finance Committee report.

Health legislation

  • Today, the House Health & Human Services Committee will meet to discuss a few pieces of legislation.
  • They’ll discuss House Bill 95, which would help the state identify taxpayers (and members of their households) who are uninsured. The Human Services Department would then help them navigate enrollment in health insurance, such as Medicaid.
  • They’ll also discuss House Memorial 22, which would ask the state’s Human Services Department and Workforce Solutions Department to study the impact of a basic income in New Mexico.
  • The introduced memorial notes that New Mexico has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the nation, according to data from the 2020 census. The memorial also notes that Santa Fe and Las Cruces have considered implementing a universal basic income.

Elections, funds for data, and legislator salaries

  • Today, Friday January 28, the House Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee will discuss several pieces of legislation.
  • They’ll discuss House Joint Resolution 5, which would create a “state-sponsored” and “state-funded” primary election system. It would allow registered voters to vote in one party’s primary election, even if the voter hadn’t declared allegiance to the party. A political party could prevent non-party-members from voting in their primary if they pay for the entire nomination process.
  • They’ll also discuss House Bill 114, which would provide $400,000 to spend on data-sharing agreements among groups working within the realm of criminal justice in Bernalillo County. Earlier this week, stakeholders provided testimony to legislators that communication and data-sharing is an issue within the county’s criminal justice system.
  • The committee will also consider House Memorial 26, which would ask the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research to study how much time legislators do legislative work when the legislature is not in session. Currently, work done outside the usual 30 or 60 day sessions are unpaid, although legislators do get reimbursed for miles driven to committee meetings outside of the session.