House Amends Lottery Scholarship Bill

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez

LEGISLATIVE News:

SANTA FE–Senate Bill 347 (SB 347) has been amended by the House, which calls for across-the-board Lottery Scholarship funding cuts to all New Mexico students.

Bill sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Bernalillo and Valencia, has concurred with the amendment in order to avoid death of the bill, but said he was not happy with the changes.

“Although I do not agree with the amendments, in the end it is all about the students and had I not decided to concur, more students would have been hurt,” Sanchez said. “I will continue to try to find permanent revenue sources so that students will have 100 percent of tuition paid. I was also disappointed to hear that during the House debate on the amendment  personal comments were made relating to my continuing advocacy for students. This should never be about one person or another. This important issue is too fragile to use a low tactic and the focus should always be on the students. ”

Under the original bill, an appropriation of $11 million from the general fund would have covered 100 percent of tuition for the current academic year. An additional $11.5 million would have also been added to the budget for fiscal year 2015. A 39 percent diversion of liquor excise taxes would have been implemented for fiscal year 2016. The $18.5 million that will be generated annually as a result of the diversion would have otherwise gone into the state’s general scholarship amounts.

The amendment clarified that the Lottery Scholarship will pay for no more than four semesters for community college students. It also removed appropriations, which would have been duplicated in the General Appropriations Act. The third change is the removal of provisions for front loading freshman and sophomores and applying any needed cuts to junior and senior scholarship funds because it allows the department, rather than the legislature, to determine cuts that will happen to scholarship amounts.

Currently, about 14,000 New Mexico college students depend on the lottery scholarships and more than 90,000 have been recipients of the scholarship since the program started back in 1996.

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