LFC unveils $5.9 billion budget plan

SANTA FE (KRQE) — The problem with having more money is figuring out how to spend it.

The Legislative Finance Committee has an idea. The Democrat-controlled group is proposing a $5.9 billion state budget for the next fiscal year, a plan that spends the $200 million more in state revenue projected to come in.

Under the LFC proposal, public schools and higher education would get a 3.7 percent funding hike for next fiscal year, about $120 million in total. A lot of that money would be focused on early childhood education programs.

Medicaid would also get a $35 million boost, with about half of that money going into implementing mandatory provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

Cash reserves would increase slightly under the plan. The state's Tourism Department would get a $1.5 million boost under the LFC proposal.

Tuesday, lawmakers said they were cautious about spending too much of that money because of worries about automatic federal cuts that were pushed back by Congress in January.

"We're going to move gingerly so to speak," said Sen. John Arthur Smith (D - Deming), the LFC's chair. "We're pleased we have additional dollars but we're still apprehensive with the economy and what's going to happen with the federal dollars."

Another part of the plan would give all state workers a 1 percent pay hike, the first such raise since 2008. State and Motor Transportation Police would get an additional 3 percent raise on top of that in an attempt to keep more officers in the department.

Albuquerque Teachers Federation president Ellen Bernstein said the pay hike was better than nothing but wasn't nearly enough. Bernstein said the likelihood of pension cuts being approved this legislative session and increased federal payroll taxes that cut down on take-home pay are putting the squeeze on her members and a 1 percent raise isn't enough to make up the difference.

"I think teachers will be disappointed to the point of being insulted," Bernstein said. "We want to make sure that we don't just attract teachers but we retain teachers."

The Governor is planning on unveiling her administration's vision for the state budget on Thursday.

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New Mexico (change)

 
New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
 
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Governor: Susana Martinez
Lieutenant Governor: John Sanchez
Attorney General: Gary King
Secretary of State: Dianna J. Durán

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