New Mexico Legislature to focus on education, health care with record budget

Proposals expected to be top priorities in upcoming session

The 30-day legislative session begins Tuesday after the governor's State of the State address. As always, the number one priority is approving a new state budget.

SANTA FE, N.M. – The 30-day legislative session begins Tuesday after the governor’s State of the State address. As always, the number one priority is approving a new state budget.

State lawmakers have a lot of extra money to work with this year. Members of the Legislative Finance Committee say there’s an extra $3.4 billion to spend, and that’s all thanks to a booming oil and gas industry.

State lawmakers already have a plan to spend that money, and so does Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The Legislative Finance Committee is pitching $10.1 billion in total spending – roughly 6% higher than last year’s historic budget. While the governor is aiming even higher with $10.5 billion – a nearly 10% increase from last year.

Education is number one for both proposals, with nearly $4.5 billion for public schools and millions more to expand pre-K programs.

Both proposals are calling for pay raises for teachers: 4% from state lawmakers but only 3% from the governor.

It’s worth noting, the governor also wants millions to establish a summer literacy program and increase the minimum number of school days.

Both budget proposals are working to bring more medical professionals to New Mexico. The governor is asking for $87 million to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates, while state lawmakers are proposing more than $130 million.

“It’s going to be a session also very focused on health care, on finding ways to get more health care providers into our state to grow our own, to attract folks here at all with an eye with an eye towards providing better health care for New Mexicans,” said Doña Ana County Rep. Nathan Small. 

It’s clear the governor is focused on the affordable housing crisis. She’s asking for $500 million to fund rental and mortgage assistance programs, and she wants another $40 million for statewide homelessness initiatives.

The Legislative Finance Committee is only proposing $100 million for housing issues, but that’s still a huge step up from previous years.

“From like, 2006 or so 2007, all the way up until like, 2020, there was a total of $37 million that was put into the Housing Trust Fund,” said Small. “So it gives you a sense of the level of urgency.” 

Both budget proposals are also calling for pay raises for state workers, including state police, and investments in law enforcement recruitment funds.

The governor is also asking for $500 million to establish a strategic water reserve.

All this extra money is coming from the oil and gas industry, but recent projections suggest that cash pipeline could start drying up. That’s why roughly a third of both proposed budgets are going into reserves.

Considering we’re facing another historic surplus this year, KOB 4 asked about potential rebate checks for New Mexico taxpayers.

“I think right now, there’s a lot of focus on what is the biggest return for all New Mexicans,” said Small. “And so those sorts of investments that we’re making now, really, we have to make sure that not only is it the best thing for today, but it’s for tomorrow, and also for the long term.” 

It seems like rebate checks aren’t on the table, but lawmakers told us they believe all of the other proposed investments will benefit New Mexicans financially down the road.