SANTA FE — New Mexico lawmakers agreed Wednesday to send Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham a budget proposal that would sharply boost state spending — to $9.6 billion — amid a revenue boom driven by oil and gas production.
On a voice vote, the House accepted amendments to the budget legislation made by the Senate, where members added funding to support a college scholarship program at the governor’s request, among other changes.
The size of the spending increase — and the lack of transparency in how the Senate arrived at its changes — drew condemnation on the House floor.
Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, a Gallup Democrat and former chairwoman of House Appropriations and Finance Committee, urged lawmakers to reject the Senate amendments.
“I think it was not handled properly. … I hope the House stands its ground and doesn’t roll over for the other side.”
But the House approved the budget nevertheless.
Rep. Nathan Small, a Las Cruces Democrat who succeeded Lundstrom as chairman of the House appropriations committee after a shake-up on the opening day of this year’s session, said he was comfortable with the Senate changes. The amendments authorized more spending than the House version, he said, but with a healthy 30% in reserves still projected.
“We are investing in education. We are investing in infrastructure,” Small said. “We are making the largest investment in public safety, and we are saving more money than we have ever saved before.”
The proposal, House Bill 2, now heads to Lujan Grisham, who has line-item veto authority.
It has enough funding for 6% raises on average for state employees and educators, sharp increases in prekindergarten and child care assistance, and higher Medicaid reimbursement rates intended to better compensate doctors.
Altogether, ongoing spending would climb about $1.2 billion over current levels, an increase of 13.7%.
“I think it’s too much,” Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, said. “I don’t believe it’s sustainable.”
The governor has until April 7 to act on the budget.