N.M. LEGISLATURE NEWS:
SANTA FE — Friday, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) held a press conference to present the budget recommendations for the 2014 Legislative Session. Spending calls for $6.15 billion from the general fund, which is $253.5 million more than is expected to be spent in the current fiscal year.
LFC Chairman, Rep. Luciano Valera, D-Santa Fe, opened the press conference, providing a rundown of the priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. Job creation, education, public employee retention and healthcare were at the core of the list.
Legislators agreed that bipartisanship would be the focus as they take on the issues in the upcoming legislative session beginning Jan. 21. “As a legislative branch we will work together collectively to move New Mexico forward,” said LFC Vice-Chair, Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Dona Ana, Hidalgo, Luna and Sierra.
Budget recommendations include:
- Increase in funding for early childhood initiatives to $35 million
- $50 million (1.5 percent increase) for cost of living for state, public education and higher education employees; $40 million to schools and state agencies to use for such things as pay adjustments or employee rewards; $3 million for a State Police Pay Plan; $2 million for pay increase to certain agencies with compensation issues; $1 million for Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) recruitment and retention; public schools will also receive $2.7 million to improve pay for teacher’s aides and $4.5 million to raise starting salaries for level one teachers
- $2.7 billion for public schools (5.6 percent increase), is proposed to go towards pension, health insurance and at-risk students
- $836.6 million (5.1 percent increase) is recommended to go towards higher education. $11 million is proposed as a solution for the revenue deficit in the Lottery Scholarship Program for this year’s spring semester and another $11 million is proposed for FY15 contingent on passage
- Medicaid and Medicaid-funded behavioral health care is recommended to receive $905 million
- Recommendations also leave reserves at 9.4 percent to be used on “unresolved issues at the federal level,” potential loss of special education money and state cash reconciliation.