Gov. Susana Martinez
RIO RANCHO – Gov. Susana Martinez signed New Mexico’s Fiscal Year 2015 State Budget Tuesday, a bipartisan compromise that enacts several initiatives to increase New Mexico’s healthcare workforce, invests in key job creation efforts, and expands education reform initiatives as a means of getting more education dollars into the classroom to help struggling students and schools.
As signed, the $6.15 billion budget increases state spending by 4.3 percent over the current fiscal year. Education spending increases by 5.75 percent to a record high of $2.7 billion.
“Over the past three years, we have worked in a bipartisan way to restore our state’s firm fiscal footing after years of over-spending, and the budgets we have passed have enacted moderate, responsible spending growth. Along the way, we have invested heavily in public education and early childhood programs, expanded job creation efforts, and provided for a strong safety net to help the most vulnerable,” Martinez said. “As signed, this budget continues these important efforts, and I’m thankful that the early gridlock in the budget process eventually gave way to compromise and a willingness to find common ground.”
The balanced budget funds critical health care workforce initiatives, ensuring that New Mexico meets the growing demand for health care services while also creating well-paying jobs in places where they are needed most. Thirty-two of the state’s 33 counties are classified by the federal government as health professional shortage areas, and the full implementation of Centennial Care and Medicaid expansion could add as many as 205,000 new patients statewide.
Among other efforts, funding includes $1.5 million to increase the number of nurse practitioners at UNM, $726,000 to increase the number of health care professionals in health shortage areas, and $905,000 to expand primary care residency slots at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. There is also funding to expand the use of tele-medicine and establish the first-ever statewide training and certification program for community health workers.
This year’s budget also continues Martinez’s efforts to diversify New Mexico’s economy and become more competitive in the effort to attract jobs. The budget invests in the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA), allocating $10 million toward job recruitment efforts (matched by another $5 million in the capital outlay legislation) and begins the process of making the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) permanent.
The Governor also has recently signed several pieces of legislation that make New Mexico more competitive with neighboring states, leveling the playing field and making the state more attractive for job creators. Just last week, she authorized the creation of an online one-stop shop for small businesses and signed legislation to attract aviation companies that will create high-paying jobs for New Mexicans.
“We’ve made important strides in the past three years to improve New Mexico’s ability to compete with our surrounding states for jobs – an effort that is absolutely vital if we are to reduce our reliance on a dysfunctional federal government and diversify our economy to grow the private sector,” Martinez said. “This work is never done, and I’m grateful that this budget improves some of the tools we need to help recruit businesses to our state and grow our workforce.”
As signed, spending on public schools in New Mexico will increase by $147.7 million, a 5.75 percent increase over the current fiscal year, to a total of $2.7 billion invested in public education in New Mexico. This will be the highest level of spending on education in state history. Included in the new money for public education is the expansion of several education reform initiatives designed to get dollars into New Mexico classrooms to directly help struggling students and schools, and support efforts to better engage parents, graduate our students, and reward successful teachers.
As a result, the state will expand the use of parent portals, provide more interventions for struggling students and schools, recruit more math and science teachers in areas that badly need them, pilot various initiatives to reward teachers for strong performance in the classroom, further expand the number of early college high schools, and continue the state’s already successful efforts to improve student access and success in Advanced Placement courses.
Under this budget, in addition to all teachers receiving a 3 percent pay raise, the minimum starting salary for teachers in New Mexico will move from $30,000 to $32,000 – a 6.7 percent increase. The Governor had called for a more substantial 10 percent increase in the minimum starting salary.
“Every kid deserves the opportunity to succeed, and we are targeting education dollars in reforms to give every kid that opportunity. I’m proud that our budget invests targeted dollars where we need it most — to support our teachers, help struggling students, improve parental engagement, and lift up low-performing schools,” Martinez said.
Despite the important achievements in the budget, the version passed by the Legislature was over-spent and drew down the State’s savings account to worrisome levels; it also ignored several financial contingencies and liabilities that must be factored into the state’s long-term fiscal outlook. As a result, the Governor trimmed roughly $27 million in spending to keep budget growth at a reasonable, responsible level.
While teachers, state workers, and higher education employees will all receive compensation increases, the Governor did not authorize pay raises for exempt employees in state government, elected district attorneys, and elected judges. Salaries will remain at their current level for these employees. With respect to the judiciary, though the Governor could not authorize the requested 8 percent raise for judges, she will approve the expansion of five additional judgeships throughout the State and has already authorized increased State contributions to ailing judicial and magistrate pension plans as part of comprehensive reform efforts to ensure their solvency.
The Governor also trimmed funding for various spending earmarks that were not part of base agency budgets, and she vetoed $4 million for the higher education endowment fund, which would have been authorized had bipartisan legislation been passed to reform the endowment program to better attract top researchers and professors to our colleges and universities. The Governor also vetoed a $15 million appropriation designed to pay for changes to New Mexico’s school funding formula.
The Governor supports the formula change, enacted by HB 19 yesterday, but the change does not take effect until next year (fiscal year 2016). In other words, had this money remained in the budget, it would not have been able to accomplish the objective of directing more educational dollars to at-risk students in New Mexico. Martinez hopes the state will support this additional funding in next year’s budget, when the funding formula changes are enacted.
To read the Governor’s more lengthy executive message on the signing of Tuesday’s budget, click here.