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Updated: Will State Workers Get a Raise?

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Gov. Susana Martinez is not on board with the Legislative Finance Committee’s proposal to give state employees their first salary increase since 2008.

Martinez told the Journal today the raises will not be a part of her budget recommendation, which will be unveiled Thursday, saying she is concerned the proposal goes against her push to diversify New Mexico’s economy.

“I know that state employees have done an excellent job doing more with less, but so have small businesses,” Martinez said.

“What’s more important right now is to secure the economy across the board,” she added.

 

 

SANTA FE (AP) — State workers in New Mexico would receive a 1 percent salary increase — their first across-the-board raise since 2008 — and State Police officers would get a 3 percent pay hike under budget recommendations released today by a legislative panel.

Under proposals by the Legislative Finance Committee, the state would spend almost $5.9 billion on public education and government programs — from health care to prisons — in the 2014 fiscal year, which starts July 1. That’s an increase of about 4 percent, or $232 million, over this year’s budget.

The panel’s recommendations serve as a foundation for budget decisions by the Democratic-controlled Legislature during a 60-day session that starts next week. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is expected to announce her budget proposals Thursday.

The pay increases would cost about $32 million and cover workers in government agencies as well as public schools, colleges and universities. School districts ultimately decide whether to provide raises to teachers and other educational employees. The Legislature, however, appropriates money to schools to cover possible raises.

Lawmakers proposed spending $54 million to boost government contributions for public employee and educator pensions. About $38 million would reverse a “pension swap” that lawmakers enacted in 2009 to balance the budget.

The state reduced its pension contributions and required workers to pay an extra 1.5 percent of their salaries into retirement programs. That law is expiring and lawmakers must provide money to raise government contributions by 1.5 percent to offset lower worker payments. About $16 million is for higher government payments into the educational retirement program to improve its long-term solvency.

Take-home pay of state workers and educators dropped because of the recent pension changes when government grappled with budget shortfalls because of a downturn in the economy. The Legislature hasn’t provided an across-the-board pay raise for public employees since 2008, when 2.4 percent average pay increases were approved for state workers and enough money was allocated to schools for 2 percent average salary increases for educators.

Other provisions of the committee’s proposed budget:

—An extra $16 million in state aid for early childhood programs, including pre-kindergarten, child care assistance to low-income families and extended school years for students in kindergarten through third grade in schools serving high-poverty areas.

—About $2.5 billion for public school operations, the Public Education Department and educational programs such as pre-kindergarten. That’s an increase of about $109 million, or more than 4 percent, including money for pay raises. The committee recommends about $23 million for a proposed change in the school finance system to direct more state aid to schools for students at risk of failing and dropping out.

—About $785 million for colleges and universities. That’s an increase of more than 4 percent, or nearly $34 million, including money for pay raises.

—About $25 million in projected revenue is left available to cover possible tax cuts or other budget initiatives by the governor and Legislature.

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