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Gov. Proposes $6.4B Budget

Gov. Proposes $6.4B Budget

Almost half of that new spending--$101 million -- will go to fund public schools.

BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

Gov. Susan Martinez on Tuesday  unveiled a proposed $6.46 billion state budget for the coming fiscal year that includes $228 million, or 3.7 percent, new spending.

Almost half of that new spending–$101 million — will go to fund public schools.

Another $69 million would go to Medicaid to support the program’s growing rolls, which now top 830,000.

The additional school funding would boost the starting pay of public school teachers by $2,000 a year to $36,000.

Traditionally, a governor’s proposed budget is a starting point for a negotiation with the Legislature.

Martinez said her budget represented her three top priorities: public safety, public education and economic development. She added that her proposed spending increase could be revised downward as oil prices continue to fall.

New revenue projections have fallen throughout the year and were 10 percent lower in December than in August, Martinez said, adding, “so the budget may need to tighten further.”
The proposed budget includes $11 million for targeted pay increases for what Martinez called the “hardest to recruit and retain positions,” including state police officers, prison guards, parole officers, forensic scientist and child abuse caseworkers.
Martinez’s education budget includes $55.2 million for pre-K programs, a $7 million increase over the current budget, $8.75 million to expand the state’s teacher mentorship program, and $1.5 million to give 66 high-performing college students $15,000 scholarships to become teachers and commit to teaching in New Mexico.
Martinez’s economic development proposals are modest compared to previous years. They include $10 million in capital funds to maintain the state’s $50 million closing fund, $10 million in job training money and $2.3 million in new funding for the state’s tourism department.
Citing the need to control spending in the face of uncertain oil and gas prices, Martinez proposed flat budgets for 66 percent of all state agencies, including her office.
“Spending a mile wide and inch deep isn’t going to cut it this year,” Martinez said.
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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.