New Mexico lawmakers debate largest budget in state history

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SANTA FE, N.M. — At a grand total of $9.57 billion, this year’s proposed state budget is the largest in New Mexico history.

“It’s a good budget for New Mexico, we had lots of money we got to appropriate a lot of money into a lot of places and it’s going to make a big difference for New Mexico,” Sen. George Muñoz said.

The budget includes free school lunches, funding for the opportunity scholarship, expanding rural health care, more funding for law enforcement, and much more.

However, those who voted against the bill say these increases are going to cost more money down the line.

“We support investments in one-time projects – critical infrastructure, roads, buildings that have for so long been ignored, so one-time investments in New Mexico,” said Sen. Crystal Diamond. “So, our concerns though are the large amount of investments in recurring programs.”

Sens. Crystal Diamond and Pat Woods say the surplus the state is seeing right now is from the oil and gas industry and there is no guarantee that we will see a similar surplus next year. But their concerns don’t end there – Woods said he would be surprised if state agencies actually use all of the money they are given this year.

“Simply, it was a very bloated budget,” Woods said. “When I say that, it is because the year before, the year before, and the year before, we have reverted millions of dollars back from agencies that weren’t able to spend the budget.”

While that concern is shared by some Democrats, Muñoz said no matter how they spend the budget, there would be complaints.

“If you have money and you use it in a good way, people will always complain that you spent too much money – on the other side of the aisle, if we didn’t spend any money, they’d be saying we didn’t spend any money to fix their projects,” Muñoz said. “We have to use this money and there is nothing wrong with our budget increasing because we have the capacity and we can use it wisely.”

Since there were some changes made to the budget in the Senate, the House has to vote to pass it one more time before it heads to the governor’s desk.

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