New Mexico governor seeks raises for teachers, state workers and higher education
SANTA FE (AP)- New Mexico’s governor delivered budget recommendations Monday that include a new round of pay increases for public school and state government workers plus subsidies to expand early childhood schooling and provide tuition-free college.
Teachers’ pay would increase by 4%, while state employees would see a 3% raise. A 2% increase is proposed at public colleges and universities, under the recommendations to the state Legislature from Democratic’, second-year Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
General fund spending overall would increase by more than 8 percent to about $7.7 billion, extending a spending spree underwritten by record-setting petroleum production in southeastern New Mexico and the money it provides to state government through taxes, royalties and lease purchases. The Democrat-led Legislature convenes Jan. 21 for a 30-day session to craft the spending plan for the coming fiscal year.
A slump in oil prices in 2016 prompted the state to slash funding to public colleges, increase admission fees at state museums and scour public school district accounts for idle cash.
Finance and Administration Secretary Olivia Padilla-Jackson said the governor’s new budget proposal “strikes a balance between meeting critical needs of today and investing strategically for future stability.”
The plan recommends maintaining accessible reserves equal to 25% of annual general fund spending — money that could help the state withstand an economic downturn without enacting immediate austerity measures.
Separately, about $320 million would be set aside in a new trust fund for early childhood education to bolster future spending with the fund’s investment earnings. The fund is proposed to act as a hedge against future downturns in the oil sector, recessions or both.
Announcing education budget provisions, Padilla-Jackson described a new “cradle to career” approach.
Lujan Grisham wants a $74 million increase in general fund spending to expand and improve early childhood services and education — including prekindergarten, home consultations with parents, subsidized child care and nutritional assistance for children. She is proposing subsidized child care for an additional 4,200 children.
“By providing children high-quality experiences during the most critical and rapid stages of brain development, we can give children the start they need to succeed,” the governor’s proposal said.
The governor also has proposed that the state pick up the tab for college tuition and fees among about 55,000 in-state students across New Mexico’s network of 29 public community colleges, four-year colleges and universities. That would cost about $35 million during the coming fiscal year if approved by legislators.