Gov. Martinez unveils $6.3B spending plan, says state on “solid” fiscal ground

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New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez speaks while presenting her 2016 budget proposal at Dona Ana Elementary School in Las Cruces, N.M., Monday Jan. 12, 2015. Martinez unveiled a nearly $6.3 billion spending plan for growing New Mexicos economy and bolstering a slew of education initiatives. (AP Photo)

Gov. Susana Martinez has rolled out a $6.3 billion budget proposal for the coming year that, in most areas, does not differ substantially from a legislative plan released last week.

The Republican governor unveiled her spending plan at a Las Cruces elementary school. She said it targets public education and economic development, which were two primary themes of her re-election campaign.

With declining oil prices leading to a reduction in the projected amount of money available for state spending in the coming year, Martinez’s budget recommendation would increase spending levels by $141 million — or 2.3 percent — over this year’s levels.

If enacted, that would be the smallest annual budget growth since Martinez first took office in 2011.

“Financially, we are on solid ground,” Martinez said in her prepared remarks. “It just means we need to be cautious, monitor these (energy) prices regularly, and prioritize more and better.”

Like the Legislative Finance Committee budget recommendation, the Martinez spending plan calls for a hefty chunk of the increased state spending to go to New Mexico’s public school system — roughly $68 million of the $141 million in new spending.

However, the governor’s budget plan calls for more of that money to flow through the state Public Education Department for Martinez-backed initiatives than the legislative plan, setting up a potential dispute over power of the purse strings.

Among other items, the governor’s budget would authorize $33 million in additional spending for Medicaid and $50 million for a state “closing fund” used to help defray the costs of business expansion and relocation, though not all of that money would come from the state general fund.

The Martinez budget plan does not call for pay raises for all state employees, but State Police officers and some new teachers would be among those receiving salary increases.

The 60-day legislative session begins Jan. 20.

Check tomorrow’s Journal for more details.

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