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Early childhood amendment clears first Senate hurdle

Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque

SANTA FE — A proposal to tap into New Mexico’s land grant permanent fund — and dedicate much of the new revenue to early childhood programs — made some rare progress in the Senate on Wednesday.

The proposed constitutional amendment, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Michael Padilla of Albuquerque, advanced through the Senate Rules committee on a 5-3 vote, with a few members absent. A similar measure failed in the committee last year, when everyone was present.

Nonetheless, this year’s proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 2, still faces a tough road and must clear the skeptical Senate Finance Committee before reaching the floor.

The measure would increase distributions from the permanent fund by 1.5 percentage points, from 5 percent to 6.5 percent. It could raise roughly $240 million a year, with the bulk of the money dedicated to home visiting services, pre-kindergarten programs and similar early childhood efforts.

The proposal would also need approval from New Mexico voters and Congress.