The Latest: New Mexico Legislature approves budget

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on activity at the New Mexico Legislature (all times local):

10:00 p.m.

The Democrat-led Legislature has approved a $700 million general fund spending increase that will go mostly toward public education as lawmakers scramble to address a court order to expand learning opportunities for low-income and minority students.

Approved Friday as the Legislature winds down, the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 allots 6 percent salary increases to school teachers and staff, a 4 percent boost for state employees, and money to fill vacancies at offices with responsibilities ranging from child protective services to oilfield regulation.

Spending would increase for at-risk students and to expand the school year by five weeks at many elementary schools.

Two successive annual budget surpluses in excess of $1 billion are allowing the Legislature to plot a major economic stimulus package and respond to a judge’s order to boost resources to public education.


9:15 p.m.

Proposals that critics say would have made New Mexico an immigrant “sanctuary state” appears to have died.

A number of bills that would have restricted federal contracts for immigration detention centers in the state and prevented New Mexico law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities were stuck Friday in various committees. Proponents acknowledged the proposals likely were dead with only hours left in the session.

Rep. Angelica Rubio, a Las Cruces Democrat, says she was disappointed that many of the immigration-related bills died. But she said liberal lawmakers aren’t giving up and would push similar proposals next session.

Legislative analysts say the bills could have made New Mexico a sanctuary state in the view of the federal government and cost the state millions of dollars in federal grants.


8:40 p.m.

Members of the state Senate are distancing themselves from a $700,000 budget provision for new staff to be overseen by legislative leaders.

The spending on legislative staff who can travel the state and attend to political constituents is part of a $7 billion general fund spending plan approved by the Senate on Friday. House leaders including Democratic speaker Brian Egolf support the provision.

GOP Sen. Steven Neville of Aztec says he worries about the potential for patronage politics. He voted against the new staff spending as a Senate envoy to budget negotiations with the House.

Democratic Sen. Clemente Sanchez of Grants says the staff positions for constituent services are not appropriate in New Mexico’s unsalaried Legislature.

Sanchez and Neville said their concerns were not significant enough to hold up approval of the budget bill as the legislative session winds down.


5:40 p.m.

New Mexico Senate and House lawmakers have brokered an agreement on disputed provisions of a $7 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year.

A conference committee of three legislators from each chamber on Friday reached a compromise on a list of disputed budget provisions.

They include disagreements about the distribution public of school staff salary increases and $750,000 in new appropriations for legislative leaders to hire staff to communicate with political constituents.

The agreement affirms that all public school staff will receive a 6 percent salary increase, though school boards will have final say over pay for superintendents.

The rewritten budget suggests that the University of New Mexico reinstate disbanded sports teams for soccer, skiing and volleyball without making it a requirement.

Final votes of the House and Senate will send the budget plan to the governor.


1:10 p.m.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging members of the Legislature’s powerful Senate Finance Committee to increase funding for early childhood education as a new agency is created to oversee preschool and infant services.

Lujan Grisham appeared before the committee Friday with her granddaughter in her lap to urge greater withdrawals from a multi-billion dollar state education trust to fund preschool. She said without greater funding, the state is making a “Sophie’s choice” to educate some children and not others.

Democratic Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith warned that other states such as Alaska and North Dakota have failed to safeguard trusts derived from fossil fuels.

She says her push to provide universal access to preschool will require annual spending of $285 million. It is unusual in New Mexico for a governor to lobby a committee directly.


3 a.m.

Legislators are hammering out agreements to increase annual spending on public school education by a half-billion dollars after consummating New Mexico’s version of a “Green New Deal” that aims for carbon-free electricity production within a generation.

The consequences of sweeping Democratic midterm election victories in New Mexico were coming into focus in the final full day of the state’s annual legislative session on Friday.

Two successive annual budget surpluses in excess of $1 billion are allowing the Legislature to plot a major economic stimulus package and respond to a judge’s order to boost resources to public education.

As Democrats push through the state’s first minimum wage increase in a decade, their own ideological divides have sidelined efforts to legalize recreational marijuana and remove a dormant criminal ban on abortion.

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