SANTA FE (KRQE) — State lawmakers took a big step toward deciding on a budget Tuesday as the spending plan for next year moved toward a vote of the full House.
It's a compromised budget which includes pay raises for state workers and $140 million more for education.
The $5.9 billion budget passed out of committee Tuesday morning on a 15-3 vote.
Seven Democrats sided with all of the committee's Republicans to vote for a budget that includes nearly $240 million in increased spending.
But three freshman Democrats objected to the education part of the budget despite a more than 4 percent funding increase.
"There was a sizable increase in terms of the dollars," said Rep. Elizabeth "Liz" Thomson, D-Albuquerque. "I think that's wonderful, but I think the dollars were not being placed in a way that they could best help New Mexico's children."
Thomson says the 1 percent raise for state employees and teachers in the budget simply isn't enough.
Gov. Susana Martinez has opposed giving state workers that raise.
The House budget leaves nearly $20 million for the Senate to allocate possibly on new spending or tax cuts.
What's not addressed in the budget is the possibility of automatic federal spending cuts that kick in March 1.
Committee chair Rep. Henry "Kiki" Saavedra, D-Albuquerque, is especially worried about those considering the New Mexico congressional delegation's lack of seniority in Washington.
"We lost Pete Domenici; we lost a lot of power up there," Saavedra said. "We're a small state as far as numbers."
To complicate things the Legislative Finance Committee is projecting a weaker-than-expected economy.
That means the state has about $40 million less to spend this year and $25 million less next year, but there is enough wiggle room to absorb the shortfalls.
The budget now goes to the House floor where a vote is expected Thursday.
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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.