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Democrats' budget plan clears New Mexico House

The Associated Press
February 23, 2017 06:48 AM

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The Latest on efforts to resolve New Mexico's state budget crisis (all times local):

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9:50 p.m.

The New Mexico House of Representatives has approved a budget bill that would hold general fund spending steady at $6.1 billion for the fiscal year starting in July.

Democratic lawmakers pushed through the bill on a 37-32 party-line vote. The budget blueprint now moves to the Senate. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has voiced fundamental differences with the current plan and can veto provisions line-by-line.

The House-approved budget would increase classroom spending on K-12 education through a per-student funding formula by $32 million, with no overall increase in public school funding.

Funding to the judiciary would rise by 2.5 percent. State courts have struggled this year to pay for juries and meet staff payroll. The increases extend to the Office of the Public Defender, where some attorneys have said they are too overloaded with work to provide adequate representation to poor defendants facing jail time.

The Corrections Department budget would increase slightly, while funding would decrease by 1 percent for the Higher Education Department and state colleges and universities. State investment income would offset general fund cuts to specialty schools for the deaf and blind.

“This evening the House took a major step toward a budget that reflects the values of New Mexico and protects our hardworking families," House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said in a statement released shortly after the vote. "We call on the Governor to join us and our partners in the Senate in charting a new course for our state. The approach of the last six years has not worked. Now is the time to reform our tax code, bring new fairness to our families, and protect New Mexico’s small businesses. The Governor now has the opportunity to turn a new page; we hope she joins us in building a better and more secure future.”

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8:40 p.m.

The New Mexico House of Representatives has approved a proposal to increase state revenues for the coming fiscal year to prevent further state spending cuts.

The Democratic majority backed the legislation on a 37-32 party-line vote on Wednesday. Republicans said they favored greater austerity measures and delays to construction projects to shore up the state general fund, among other measures.

The revenue bill calls for an additional $250 million in taxes and fees on online retail sales, hospitals, car buyers and trucking business to bridge a budget shortfall. An initial provision to tax sales by nonprofit groups has been eliminated.

The Democrat-led House is considering a $6.1 billion spending bill for the fiscal year that starts in July that would hold spending levels steady. Lawmakers are wrestling with a downturn in state tax revenues linked to relatively low energy prices and a tepid economy.

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6:50 p.m.

The New Mexico House of Representatives is debating a Democrat-sponsored bill that would increase state revenues by $250 million to fill a budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year and shore up state reserves.

Debate began on the House floor Wednesday on the plan to bridge a budget shortfall without new cuts to state general fund spending. It would raise more money from taxes and fees on online retail sales, hospitals, car buyers and trucking business. An initial provision to tax sales by nonprofit groups has been eliminated.

The Democrat-led House is considering a $6.1 billion spending bill for the fiscal year that stars in July that would hold spending levels steady.

The Legislature is wrestling with stunted state revenues linked to a downturn in the oil sector and a sluggish economy.

GOP Gov. Susana Martinez says the budget bills as drafted are disconnected from New Mexico's values, and Republican lawmakers are pushing for major changes to the revenue bill.

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5:00 p.m.

Republican lawmakers in the New Mexico House of Representative are admonishing their colleagues in the Democratic majority for proposed tax increases designed to close a budget shortfall.

Republican lawmakers including House Minority Leader Nate Gentry presented alternatives Wednesday that they say can avert spending cuts without outright tax increases.

The GOP plan would combine Democrat-backed proposals to collect taxes on online sales by out-of-state retailers with other cost-saving measures such as construction projects delays, temporarily reductions in tax credit payments to New Mexico's film industry and reduced subsidies to a state health insurance pool for the severely ill. Both parties want to raise money by recalibrating taxes on hospitals and other health care providers.

Lawmakers are preparing for a House floor debate on the budget for the fiscal year starting in July.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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The Associated Press

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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