New Mexico state spending plan clears House committee

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SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico lawmakers sent the state budget on the first step of its journey Tuesday. It promises pay raises for police, teachers and other state employees.

The budget is nearly a 14% increase over last year. The state is flush with cash, but lawmakers are trying not to get ahead of themselves. There’s a 30% reserve the budget has built in – in case oil prices tank, the pandemic takes a turn, or something else stops the flow of cash.

The budget was passed by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee Tuesday morning. It increases K-12 education spending by more than 12% and sets minimum salaries for teachers at $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 depending on experience.

It also increases pay for state police by 16% as law enforcement agencies across the state try to attract and keep officers. The bill will also boost pay for state workers by an average of 7%.

The budget also spends hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal money in one-time projects – a more conservative budgeting approach.

"Yeah, so the problem, if you put all of the funding through recurring, is now, year after year after year, the state’s on the hook for those," said state Rep. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec. "And if revenue drops, you’re faced with hard decisions of making cuts."

That point becomes clear when it comes to how lawmakers are treating the Opportunity Scholarships. The Senate has advanced the governor’s plan to spend $85 million in recurring money each year to pay for advanced training and college. The plan the House committee signed off on Tuesday spends just $12 million yearly, but injects $53 million in one-time cash.

The budget is expected to be debated in the full House later this week – then it will head to the Senate.