SANTA FE (AP)- Revisions to New Mexico’s budget plan on Tuesday would set back average teacher raises to 4% instead of 5% and set aside money for the governor’s tuition-free college initiative.
The Associated Press reported, The spending bill from the state Senate’s lead budget-writing committee increases general fund spending by $536 million, or 7.6%, to $7.6 billion for the fiscal year that starts on July 1.
State economists are anticipating an annual windfall of roughly $800 million linked mainly to oil production.
The plan increases spending on college scholarships by $32 million. For the coming school year, only two-year college students pursuing certificates and associate degrees are eligible for a tuition-free “opportunity scholarship.”
The Senate’s version of the budget heads to a floor vote and then back to the House for consideration. A budget is due to the governor by Thursday. Lujan Grisham can veto any portion of the spending plan or the entire bill.
Senate finance committee chairman John Arthur Smith, a Democrat from Deming, warned that the budget plan increases state spending obligations at three times the rate of inflation and puts the state on “thin ice” in the event of an economic downturn or oil sector bust.
Republican Sen. Gay Kernan of Hobbs directed her comments at teachers and other school employees who might be disappointed by a 4% average salary increase, warning that larger raises might lead to layoffs later.
“We have to remember that oil and gas is very volatile,” she said.