New Mexico lawmakers seek $1 billion budget boost | New Mexico News

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MORGAN LEE and CEDAR ATTANASIO, Associated Press

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — A budget that would give New Mexico a $1 billion boost to spending on health care for the poor, teacher salaries, environmental regulations and police arrived Thursday at the State House for a debate.

Chief House budget negotiator and Democratic Representative Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup said the proposal uses increased state government revenue to improve education, bolster public safety and spur economic growth in a state with the highest child poverty rate in the American West.

“With the needs we have in this state, people want the money to come out; they want that money to work for them,” Lundstrom said.

In total, the bill calls for general fund spending of $8.47 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1, an increase of nearly 14% from current annual spending of $7.45 billion. .

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This should still leave the state with an unspent general fund balance of $2.6 billion, or 30% of annual spending obligations.

“We believe this will lead to transformative conditions,” Lundstrom said.

House Republicans highlighted their support for complementary tax cuts, forcing a failed vote on whether to fast-track a bill to eliminate taxes on Social Security income. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is backing this and other tax cuts during a 30-day legislative session that ends February 17.

House Democrats have touted unprecedented investments in education, including funding for teacher raises, under a proposed $3.87 billion K-12 budget, with a 12% increase in expenditure.

“This is a historic investment in the children of New Mexico,” said Democratic Rep. Candie Sweetser of Deming. “We are investing in these teachers and it really matters.”

Education spending includes incentives for public schools to extend annual in-class learning hours and calendar days to improve student academic performance.

More than $40 million is being spent on culturally appropriate educational materials that cater to Native American children and non-English-speaking households, as lawmakers respond to court rulings that show a failure to provide adequate educational opportunities for low-income students. income, minority and disabled.

A more than quarter-billion-dollar increase in spending is aimed at bolstering the state’s Medicaid program and other benefits for the poor, including emergency food and temporary cash benefits.

The new spending is aimed at bolstering permanent nursing staff at hospitals that rely on traveling nurses and extending pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage to mothers for one year after birth, up from two months previously.

State and federal spending that flows through the state Department of Human Services would increase to $9.2 billion, mostly for Medicaid.

Salaries would increase by at least 7% for public employees in state government and public education. Minimum salaries for teachers and principals, at various career stages, would rise to between $50,000 and $70,000.

Even larger pay increases are planned for the state police. And new taxpayer contributions are proposed for public school pensions and health care plans for state employees.

Other provisions would create a new climate change office to oversee efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan invests $9 million in grants to prevent violence, amid a record wave of homicides in Albuquerque.

Separately in the Senate, lawmakers grappled Thursday with election-year initiatives to bolster voting security and curb climate pollution.

Lawmakers clashed in the Senate over a Democratic-sponsored bill to cut pollution from the transportation sector by establishing a low-carbon fuel standard.

The proposed clean fuel standard – similar to systems in California and Oregon – gradually reduces the allowable amount of greenhouse gases related to the production, blending and transportation of fuels such as gasoline, hydrogen, ethanol, diesel and biodiesel derived from used restaurant oil. The requirements do not apply to retail service stations.

The bill’s sponsor, Mimi Stewart, the top-ranked Democrat in the Senate, said the regulations would attract new industrial entrepreneurs, improve air quality and address pressing environmental threats such as wildfires and flooding that accompanies climate change.

Republican Senator Pat Woods of Broadview warned that the regulations could raise fuel prices for consumers. Stewart said those costs would be just pennies per gallon.

The Department of the Environment would hire half a dozen full-time employees to roll out the clean fuel program over a two-year period.

Attanasio is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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