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Senate panel endorses high-profile early childhood proposal on 5-4 vote

A proposed constitutional amendment that would bolster New Mexico’s early childhood programs by diverting more money from the state’s largest permanent fund passed its first legislative hurdle today.

The Senate Rules Committee voted 5-4 this morning in favor of the measure, which still faces a tough road ahead.

It still has two more Senate committees to clear — including the Senate Finance Committee — before reaching the Senate floor.

During today’s hearing, the four GOP members of the rules committee voted against the proposal, while five Democrats voted in favor of it.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, the measure’s sponsor, said the increased spending on early childhood programs should be placed before statewide voters in November.

“All we’re doing is letting the people of New Mexico vote on what they want to do with their money,” he said.

However, Terri Cole, the president and CEO of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, said she was concerned about the long-term impact of diverting more money from the $13 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund.

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“This is an issue of great concern,” Cole said.

Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, attempted to amend the proposal to reduce how much money would be diverted from the fund.

But he ultimately withdrew the amendment after Sen. Michael Sanchez agreed to have it added before the next committee hearing.

Studies examining the impact of tapping the land grant fund for early childhood programs have reached different conclusions. Click here for today’s Journal story on those reports.

The proposed constitutional amendment is Senate Joint Resolution 12 (you can check it out here).

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