SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Senate legislators proposed an additional $150 million in spending Saturday in revisions to an already record-setting annual spending proposal that provides raises for school and state-government employees, free college tuition for in-state students, an expansion of Medicaid health care for the poor and an array of grants, loans and tax breaks to private industry.
Sen. George Muñoz of Gallup, chairman of the lead Senate budget-writing committee, presented the revised $8.48 billion spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 that increases general fund allocations by 14% over current-year expenditures — a boost of more than $1 billion.
Proposed amendments to a House-approved budget would boost spending on everything from shelter for the homeless to highway bridges for wildlife, dormitories for arts students in Santa Fe, irrigation ditch repairs, services for sexual assault victims, university athletics and election administration.
The budget leaves room for $400 million in possible tax cuts and rebates along with $125 million in proposed incentives for hydrogen fuel projects if companion legislation, before the end of the legislative session on Feb. 17.
Munoz highlighted a proposed $50 million in grants to offset infrastructure investments by private businesses that expand or relocate to New Mexico, and new university endowments aimed at training of more social workers and nurses.
“Everyone in New Mexico seems to have gotten something” in the budget proposal, Muñoz said. “We put a lot more money into economic development and it had better be fruitful.”
A Senate panel delayed its endorsement of the bill, amid a dispute over future locations of a training academy for the film and media industries. The budget would provide at least $40 million to the initiative.
Separately, a Democratic-sponsored proposal to expand voting access was put on hold with a procedural maneuver by Republican legislators that delayed a Senate floor vote indefinitely.
The amended budget bill would allow $67 million in spending on police recruitment and evidence-based alternatives to traditional law enforcement — including $9 million for violence intervention programs.
Albuquerque is contending with a record setting number of homicides, as lawmakers and prosecutors promote a lengthy slate of tough-on-crime bills that would enhance criminal sentences and provide greater oversight of pretrial release programs.
A bipartisan proposal, backed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, to ban pretrial release for some violent and sexual crimes has faltered. The budget plan would instead increase funding to provide more robust oversight and tracking of criminal defendants who are released from jail as they await trial.
The bill would increase spending by $700,000 to a board that oversees police training, certification and the vetting of misconduct allegations throughout the state beyond Albuquerque.
Annual spending on K-12 public education would increase by $425 million to $3.87 billion, a 12% increase.
Annual Medicaid spending would increase by roughly $240 million to $1.3 billion as the federal government winds down pandemic-related subsidies to the program that gives free health care to the impoverished.
The budget plan would expand post-partem Medicaid coverage to guarantee enrollment for up to a year after births, up from 60 days, at an initial cost of $14 million to the state and much more to the federal government.
That expansion would include mental health services for post-partem depression, said Mahesh Sita, a legislative specialist for the American Heart Association that supports the provision.
A majority of births in New Mexico are covered by Medicaid.
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