Nearly a quarter of New Mexicans live in rural areas, where things like high-speed internet, free meeting spaces and educational opportunities can be scarce. Public libraries are sometimes the only place to access those resources, and most are run on shoestring budgets or with volunteer support. Lawmakers have been looking at a bill to provide a permanent source of funding to rural libraries, but state Senators took most of the money out before passing it on the Senate floor on Friday.
The original measure would have put $50 million dollars into a permanent fund, or endowment, for rural libraries. The Senate Finance Committee stripped out that funding.
The bills’ sponsor, Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque), says the amended bill would put $5 million dollars in a fund, and put the state librarian in charge of distributing any earnings equally to rural libraries across the state.
"While this does not guarantee the life in perpetuity of these rural libraries," said Ortiz y Pino, "we’re hoping that in future years we might be able to actually put some money into that endowment fund, and begin generating a sustaining method for financing them."
There are 50 libraries currently on the list, including eight in tribal communities. As the proposal stands, each would get about $4500 dollars per year for operating expenses.
The bill now goes to the House for approval.
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