New Mexico lawmakers weigh funding options for early childhood education

Politics - Government

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – One of the biggest topics at this year’s legislative session? How to get more kids into pre-k so they’re not already behind when they start kindergarten.

There are two bills with the same goal in mind. Both are sponsored by Democrats, but they have some key differences.

“This year that is our focus; we feel really good about where it’s at and the potential it could have on families all across the state, and we’ll keep building from there,” Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesperson for the Office of the Governor, said.

One of the governor’s wish list items is House Bill 83, which would set up the Early Childhood Trust Fund. It’s a one-time $320 million appropriation towards that fund; then the state would use the emergency school tax and federal mineral leasing to put another $40-$50 million into it every year.

She’s pushing for this bill after her idea of dipping into the state’s permanent fund was blocked by the powerful Senate Finance Committee last year. But two House Democrats are not giving up on the governor’s old plan.

“This is a tremendous game-changer. We don’t want to save our money for the next generation of poor kids, we want to grow a first-class economy for all our children,” Rep. Moe Maestas, (D) Albuquerque, said.

Rep. Moe Maestas and Rep. Javier Martinez are pushing for House Joint Resolution 1. It would let voters say “yes” or “no” to using 1% from the state’s $20 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to funnel roughly $200 million into pre-k every year.

The governor is not against that Joint Resolution, her office says she just wants funding for early childhood programs however they can make it work.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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