N.M. SENATE News:
SANTA FE—A substitute bill for the General Appropriations Act (SB 313), which proposes a $6.19 billion budget package, was heard and passed unanimously on the Senate floor Tuesday.
The substitute bill was presented to the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) last Sunday with an amended proposal of $17.5 million appropriated to the Department of Education for the administration’s education reforms. Education reform was the primary issue that led to a budget stalemate in the House.
In addition, the Senate adopted measures that are intended to deal with the Lottery Scholarship shortfall, by adding $11.5 million to the budget. A very small fraction was reduced from the House budget across the board in order to balance with the additions made by the Senate.
Among items contained in the overall budget now are $28 million for early childhood initiatives, $2.7 million for a tourism department marketing program, $1.5 million for job training and recruitment, $5.9 million for expanding nursing education and $9 million for county Medicaid programs. Overall funding for education increased 6.6 percent for public schools and 5.8 percent for higher education. The budget still leaves a reserve in the General Fund of one-half billion dollars, which is over 8 percent.
According to Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith, D-Dona Ana, Hidalgo, Luna and Sierra, a proposed budget from the Senate was developed in order to avoid a special session.