New Mexico Senate Passes $10 billion State Budget, Next Stop Back to the House. Mission Accomplished, almost.


New Mexico Budget almost done. Back to the House for a final vote.

The New Mexico legislature had one job that legally it is bound to do before it adjourns itself on Thursday and that is to pass a budget. Mission accomplished, well, almost!

The budget has now passed the house and the senate but due to changes in the Senate version the House must approve the changes and a call for another vote prior to it arriving on the desk of the Governor.

The new budget for the State of New Mexico would authorize more than $10 billion in funding around the state. That would be the largest budget passed in the state’s history and includes large investments for road infrastructure, a pay increase for state employees, and large reserves for the future.

Monday, February 12, lawmakers on the Senate floor debated the latest proposal. It’s called the ‘General Appropriation Act of 2024’ and is sponsored by Representative Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces) and Senator George Muñoz (D-Gallup).

Much of the debate was around how much the state should spend and now how much the state should save for the future. The budget is heavily reliant upon Federal funding which makes up 1/3 of New Mexico spending and with another 36% tied to oil and gas production. This reliance upon these two sources without action to create a longer-term plan for sustainability is a criticism of this legislative body as discussed in a prior story titled, New Mexico's $10B Budget Reliant on Oil, Gas and Federal Government

Some of the big-ticket items in the budget, included nearly four and a half billion dollars for the Public Education Department and $1.3 billion dollars for higher education; as well as nearly $750 million for transportation infrastructure; and investments in pay increases for New Mexico State Police.

Within the Otero County delegation Senators Burt, Griggs and Pirtle votes yea in support of the budget and outlays as requested under their leadership. The House leadership representing Otero County was split on its votes with Otero County Representative John Block voting AGAINST the budget and Representative Willie Madrid voted Yea for the budget that funds multiple projects and agencies within Alamogordo and Otero County including New Mexico State University, Alamogordo and the New Mexico School of the Blind and Visually Impaired. 

The budget as amended by the Senate must be voted on again by the House and Mr. Block and Mr. Madrid will again have the opportunity to vote yea or nay as one final pass.

It’s not a great budget, but there’s a lot of good in this budget,” said Senator William Burt (R-Alamogordo) to KQRE's Curtis Segarra.

The budget keeps a reserve of 30 percent continuing.  

Critical of the process and the priorities of guns and social issues versus fiscal responsibility, Senator Bill Tallman (D-Abq.) said "We spend more time on this floor debating guns than we do the budgetI know more about guns than the budget.” 

Making the point made by Senator Tallman, would be a review of legislation proposed by Representative John Block, Otero County. Mr. Block proposed 30 pieces of legislation of which a majority were focused on guns, the border wall, social issues and impeachment of the governor. None of those legislative offerings got anywhere and there was no responsible focus on the budget or sustainability of the New Mexico funding and budget process by Block offered. 

The one job that must be completed the legislative session is responsible debate and the passage of a state budget. Block was the only Otero County representative or senator to oppose the budget resolution but has one additional chance to vote yea or nay.

By a vote of 31 to 10, the budget was approved on the Senate floor. Although the budget was already approved in the House floor, it was amended by the Senate Finance Committee. So, it must go back for additional approval on the House floor before going to the governor’s desk.

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