Early childhood funding proposals meet differing fates

SANTA FE, N.M. — A pair of proposals to earmark more money from New Mexico’s largest permanent fund for early childhood programs met divergent fates today, with a Senate proposal surviving its first legislative hearing and a similar House proposal getting derailed in its first stop.

Both votes fell along party lines, with legislative Democrats supporting the proposals — Senate Joint Resolution 2 and House Joint Resolution 10 — and Republicans opposing them.

Advocates of the early childhood proposal have pushed unsuccessfully in recent years for legislative approval of the plan, which would also require ratification by state voters.

Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, the sponsor of the Senate proposal, bristled during today’s hearing of the Senate Rules Committee when opponents described the measure as a “raid” on the state’s $14 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund.

He acknowledged the state already spends millions of dollars on early childhood programs, but said most of that funding currently goes toward programs for youths ages 3 and older.

“The greatest impact we’re going to see is focusing (resources) on prenatal to age 3,” Padilla said.

However, critics of the legislation say an increase in how much money is distributed every year out of the permanent fund would mean slower fund growth and fewer dollars for future generations.

Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said lawmakers are already funding early childhood programs, saying, “We have had a strong commitment to these programs in recent years.”

SJR 2 passed the Senate Rules Committee on a 6-5 vote and now advances to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

HJR 10 stalled in the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee after a do-pass motion failed on a 6-5 vote.

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