Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Legislators in the state House are preparing a budget package that calls for raising teacher pay by 5% – a bit more than earlier proposals – as part of a spending plan for the coming fiscal year.
The budget plan is expected to go before the House Appropriations and Finance Committee on Monday and reach the full House later in the week.
The package under development now would authorize about $7.6 billion in sustained general-fund spending, or roughly 7% more than this year.
It’s roughly halfway between the $7.7 billion in spending proposed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the $7.5 billion initially recommended by the Legislative Finance Committee, a panel of lawmakers who meet between sessions.
But it includes larger across-the-board teacher raises than either of the earlier recommendations. Lujan Grisham had proposed 4%, and the LFC had suggested 3%, but with some extra funding for special education and bilingual teachers.
Many lawmakers – including member of legislative education committees – pushed for much higher raises. Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe, for example, had called for 10% increases in teacher pay.
The latest House proposal includes funding for 5% raises for teachers and 4% for other school personnel.
Employees at state agencies and universities would get 3%.
“We need to keep supporting our teachers,” Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-Albuquerque, said Saturday. “They are the lifeblood of our schools.”
The proposed education increases come as New Mexico responds to a 2018 court ruling that found the state is failing to provide a sufficient education to all students. Some plaintiffs in the lawsuit recently asserted that teacher salaries remain below 2008 levels when adjusted for inflation.
“We’re still playing catch up,” Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, said Saturday.
For spending on programs overseen by the new Early Childhood Education and Care Department, general-fund spending would climb about 24% under the new budget proposal. That’s less than the 46% increase recommended by the
governor but more than the 14% suggested by the LFC.
The overall state budget increase would mark the second consecutive year of significant spending growth due to an oil boom that has boosted state revenue to record levels.
Changes to Saturday’s budget proposal, of course, are likely.
Once the proposal, known as House Bill 2, makes it out of the House, it will be taken up by the Senate Finance Committee and, later, the full Senate, which often makes substantial changes before sending the bill back to the House.
Ultimately, the two chambers must agree on an identical budget to send to Lujan Grisham, who has veto and line-item veto authority to make her own changes.