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Gov. Susana Martinez Proposes 3 Percent Budget Increase

The Roundhouse in Santa Fe
Creative Commons
The Roundhouse in Santa Fe

Gov. Susana Martinez is proposing a 3 percent spending increase on education and state government programs next year, but no across-the-board pay raise for public employees.

The Republican governor on Monday released the administration's budget recommendations for the upcoming legislative session. Martinez called for spending nearly $6.1 billion in the fiscal year starting in July, an increase of almost $179 million.

The governor proposed a smaller budget increase than the Legislative Finance Committee, which recommended a 4.3 percent or nearly $254 million spending increase.

Martinez recommended $14 million for targeted pay raises covering almost a third of the state workforce, including state police and prison correctional officers. The LFC has proposed a 1.5 percent pay raise for all state and school workers, with higher increases for many employees.

Here are highlights of the budget proposal:

Almost $2.7 billion for public schools in the fiscal year starting next July. That's a nearly $100 million or 3.9 percent increase. The Legislative Finance Committee has recommended a 5.6 percent or $143 million increase, which includes more than $60 million for pay raises for teachers and other educational workers. The governor's budget doesn't allocate money for across-the-board pay raises for educators. However, Martinez recommended nearly $6.5 million to boost the starting salary for teachers to $33,000 from $30,000, and the governor proposed nearly $12 million for merit-based pay for teachers and principals.

Nearly $817 million for colleges and universities, an increase of about $21 million or 2.6 percent. The legislative panel proposed a 5.1 percent increase for higher education.

About $917 million for Medicaid, which provides health care for the needy. That's a reduction of slightly more than 1 percent or nearly $12 million from this year. The administration projects a state aid savings for the program next year because the federal government is providing additional money as New Mexico expands eligibility to cover more low-income adults. The administration took some of the projected Medicaid savings and directed it for proposed increases in reimbursements for nursing homes and additional behavioral health services. The LFC has recommended $905 million for Medicaid, about a 2.7 percent reduction.

$14.2 million targeted pay raises for certain hard-to-fill jobs in state government, including $4.5 million for state police and the rest for other positions, including prison guards, social workers and information technology employees. The LFC has recommended nearly $103 million for salary increases, including a minimum 1.5 percent for all workers in state agencies, courts, public schools and colleges. The legislative panel proposed money for additional raises to be made at the discretion of agencies and schools, and for certain jobs such as state police, judges, district attorneys, social workers and educational assistants in schools.

$16 million to shore up a lottery-financed college scholarship program to avoid cuts for students in the spring semester. The LFC proposed $11 million. The scholarships cover the full cost of tuition for New Mexico high school graduates who attend a public college or university in the state and maintain a certain grade point average. The program is running short of money because tuition increases and demand for scholarships are growing faster than lottery revenue. Lawmakers are expected to consider changes to the program to keep it solvent in the future. Among the proposals is to provide students with a flat dollar amount for scholarships rather than linking the awards to tuition. The governor said Monday she opposed using general tax money in the future to keep the program solvent and hoped lawmakers would revamp the program to keep costs within yearly lottery revenues.

Nearly $2.6 million for tax incentives to encourage investment in startup and technology companies.



Gov. Susana Martinez: http://bit.ly/19XXCQh

Legislative Finance Committee: http://1.usa.gov/1cx5zMm