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Gov. seeks $6.5M for BernCo prosecutors

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Despite a tight projected budget for the next fiscal year, with possibly only a $25 million surplus if spending is kept constant, Gov. Susana Martinez says she will ask for $6.5 million in extra funding for the Bernalillo County prosecutor’s office.

Martinez announced her intention Thursday to ask for the increase next year in the $18 million budget for the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. That would allow District Attorney Raúl Torrez to hire more prosecutors, deliver raises to current staff and build computer systems.

Torrez in late September told the legislative Criminal Reform Subcommittee that he’d need $6 million in extra annual funding for his office to keep up with crime in the county.

Torrez says 50 percent of the state’s crime happens in his jurisdiction, but his office receives only 27 percent of prosecutor office funding.

Legislators on the committee acknowledged a challenging battle against crime, but questioned if the county really deserves more money per capita than other areas in the state.

Martinez said in her announcement that she plans to include the increase in her executive budget for FY 2019, which will be negotiated with legislators in their session starting in January.

Many criminal justice agencies seek extra funding. The state Offices of the Public Defender says it is so overburdened and underfunded it is attempting to stop taking on clients in some southern counties. The state judiciary is also seeking a budget boost and had to get $600,000 of emergency funding to pay jurors earlier this year.

“New Mexicans deserve to be safe. People in Albuquerque deserve to feel safe,” Martinez said at a news conference at the Expo New Mexico fairgrounds where several police agencies were headquartered for a roundup of people with outstanding warrants.