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Budget bill on its way to Lujan Grisham

Rep. Patrica Lundstrom, D-Gallup, presents the Senate’s changes to House Bill 2, the state appropriations bill, for concurrence on the House floor Friday. She spoke through a video link from her office. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — New Mexico lawmakers knocked a critical item off their to-do list Friday, granting final passage to a roughly $7.4 billion budget plan for the next fiscal year.

The proposal would boost ongoing spending about 5%.

The extra spending includes $110 million to extend the school year by 10 days for all grades and $120 million for K-5 Plus programs that extend the year even more at some elementary schools.

It picked up bipartisan support in both chambers. The legislation, House Bill 2, passed the Senate earlier this week on a 29-13 vote, and the House agreed to the Senate amendments Friday afternoon.

The proposal would result in reserves of about 24%, a critical item as lawmakers try to protect themselves against revenue volatility.

Also included in the bill are some transaction that would be contingent on federal stimulus funding — including an extra $100 million for the lottery scholarship program for college students and $200 million for Department of Transportation projects, such as road improvements.

Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, said he was a bit “uncomfortable” with a 5% increase in spending but that the Senate changes were reasonable.

“This is what I consider to be a good compromise place to be,” he said.

Debate on the budget measure took three hours, the typical maximum for a bill in the House, as Republicans rose to ask questions about the budget and express tentative support for it.

The debate took critical time off the clock as lawmakers approach the end of the session at noon Saturday.

“The clock is running, and many, many bills are not going to see the light of day,” said House Appropriations and Finance Committee Chairwoman Patricia Lundstrom, a Gallup Democrat who fielded questions on the budget legislation.



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