Senate Finance Committee bolsters state budget with emphasis on infrastructure

Senate committee debates state budget

The House has already passed a budget plan, but today that outline is facing more tweaks in the Senate Finance Committee.

SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico House has already passed a budget plan, but that outline is facing changes by the Senate Finance Committee.

As of Wednesday night, lawmakers in that committee haven’t zeroed anything out of the proposal. Instead, they’ve added more money to it.

When the budget plan passed the House, it was just shy of $10.2 billion. The first draft from the Senate is at nearly $10.5 billion.

Senate Finance Committee Chair George Muñoz says the state has the money, so why not spend it?

“You’re going to see more money for literacy, you’re going to see a tax package that has a reduction to income taxes, that is a big reduction on taxes for personal income,” Sen. Muñoz said. “You’re going to see money for food banks, see more money for veteran services, see more money for elderly SNAP benefits going up from $25 to $100. You’re going to see a whole lot of hospital money, $1 million to rural hospitals.”

Another priority in the Senate is fully funding the free school meals program that went into effect this school year. The House’s budget plan only partially funded that program, so Muñoz says that’s fixed now.

Muñoz knows the money from the state’s lucrative oil and gas industry won’t come their way forever.

“We are starting to see oil and gas slow, we’re seeing a plateau in reoccurring money,” Muñoz said. “We might not see that next year, these big numbers that we had this year.”

Many of the changes the Senate Finance Committee made are one-time expenses rather than recurring ones. Muñoz says most of those changes would help repair roads and bridges – something he says has to happen sooner rather than later.

“We put a road package together for $780 million just for roads,” Muñoz said. “The need across the state is so great, we gotta get the DOT caught up and get them ahead of inflation.”

Muñoz says his committee plans to revisit that budget plan this weekend. If all goes well, the budget could head to the Senate floor for a vote as soon as Monday.