House vote blocks Senate budget changes
February 13, 2018 11:46 PM
SANTA FE, N.M. -- With 36 hours left in this year's legislative session, the budget is in a state of uncertainty after the House disagreed with some Senate changes.
The Senate approved the $6.3 billion plan with some amendments by a 40-2 vote on Tuesday, but the House voted not to concur with what the Senate passed.
The spending bill's figure is up considerably from last year. There is a large priority given to public safety in Albuquerque. The debate in the Senate centered on how much is too much when it comes to helping the metro.
There was some resentment about how much Bernalillo County did get in the budget.
"I've listened all summer long to the DAs, the Supreme Court justices in Albuquerque about their crime rate and their crime problem, but that crime problem was brought on by themselves," said Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup. "The former mayor got a descent decree from the feds and once we'd seen that, crime shot and now police officers are afraid to arrest people."
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez asked for a $5.4 million increase, making the case that his current funding leaves thousands of cases without prosecution. The Senate's version of the budget gives him $3.2 million extra.
Torrez's employees will get an additional 6.5 percent pay increase and his office will get $2.5 million to establish a crime strategies unit, reduce the case backlog and prosecute the Victoria Martens case.
That may have been a lot for some legislators, but Albuquerque area senators didn't think it was enough. Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, was one of two senators who voted against the whole budget.
"No, Albuquerque has not been fully taken care of," he said. "We have a lot more work to do and yes, we have work to do in the rural areas and other parts of the state because public safety is a statewide issue. I do not appreciate it when my city is told 'take it, you got enough.'"
The current budget adds to all parts of the criminal justice system including a 2.5 percent increase for courts, 3.8 percent spending increase for the public defender's office and adds spending for district attorneys all around the state.
The budget disagreement also centered on Senate amendments giving bigger pay raises to police and prison guards and more money for state universities.
With the House did agreeing with the changes the Senate made to the budget, what happens next? Three members of the Senate and three members of the House come together in a special committee and find some compromises before sending the full spending package to the governor.
The legislative session ends Thursday at noon.
Updated: February 13, 2018 11:46 PM
Created: February 13, 2018 02:24 PM
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