SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The budget has one more hurdle to clear in the legislature before heading to the Governor’s desk. It passed the Senate Floor Sunday on a largely party-line vote.
Chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, Representative Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces) talked about what changed with the bill.
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The budget left the house with a total of $9.4 billion accounted for—with nearly three billion of it put away in reserves. What the Senate is sending back, actually increases the spending a little. “What we’re seeing come back from the Senate is a little over $9.5 billion, but still a 30 percent reserve,” Small says, “We’re continuing to look through things very closely but what I see again is building on work that we’ve done here in the house.”
This year’s budget, also known as House Bill 2, prioritizes spending on public education at all levels, public safety, infrastructure, and health care. However, lawmakers have said from the beginning they also want to put away some of this year’s surplus in savings. Small says the Senate’s tweaks to the budget keep the savings aspect but raise recurring and nonrecurring spending in some areas. For example, the Senate’s version increases salaries for educators and law enforcement who can expect to see a 6% pay bump. There’s an increase in what is being put into the opportunity scholarship; and it also increases the House’s public safety package which includes initiatives to recruit and retain police in the state.
“We got the budget over there. We did our work very efficiently and in a strong bipartisan manner here in the House. But when you look at the increases, you know: we’re increasing in education, the opportunity scholarship; we’re investing in law enforcement; we’re addressing public safety; investing in infrastructure and healthcare in some of those areas. I think those are actually investments that New Mexicans want us to make,” Small says.
KRQE News 13 asked Small if he believes some of these spending increases might be a tough pill to swallow for some House members who want to save more for a rainy day—Small says he sees this as simply building on the work the House has already done and that there is a lot of commonality between the versions of the budget.
The budget bill needs to be heard once more on the House floor. If it passes, it will head to the governor’s desk.