Lawmakers expand budget plan to stem violence and boost economy | New Mexico News

By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — Senate lawmakers on Saturday proposed additional spending of $150 million as part of revisions to an already-record annual spending proposal that includes increases for school and government employees in state, free tuition for in-state students, an expansion of Medicaid health care for the poor, and a range of grants, loans, and tax breaks to private industry.

Sen. George Muñoz de Gallup, chairman of the Senate’s senior budget drafting committee, presented the revised $8.48 billion spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, which increases general fund allocations by 14% compared to current year expenditures – an increase of more than $1 billion.

Proposed changes to a House-approved budget would increase spending on everything from homeless shelters to road bridges for wildlife, dormitories for arts students in Santa Fe, repairs to irrigation ditches , sexual assault services, college athletics and election administration.

The budget leaves room for $400 million in possible tax cuts and refunds as well as $125 million in proposed incentives for hydrogen fuel projects if accompanying legislation, before the end of the session Legislative on February 17.

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Munoz pointed to a proposed $50 million in grants to offset infrastructure investments by private companies expanding or relocating to New Mexico, and new university endowments aimed at training more social workers and nurses.

“Everyone in New Mexico seems to have gotten something” in the budget proposal, Muñoz said. “We have invested a lot more money in economic development and it better be fruitful.”

A Senate panel delayed its approval of the bill, amid a dispute over future locations for a training academy for the film and media industries. The budget would provide at least $40 million for the initiative.

Separately, a Democratic-sponsored proposal to expand voting access was shelved with a procedural move by Republican lawmakers that delayed a Senate vote indefinitely.

Amended budget bill would authorize $67 million in spending on police recruitment and evidence-based alternatives to traditional law enforcement, including $9 million for violence intervention programs .

Albuquerque is facing a record number of homicides, as lawmakers and prosecutors promote a long list of tough-on-crime bills that would improve criminal sentences and provide greater oversight of bail programs.

A bipartisan proposal, backed by Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, to ban bail for certain violent and sexual crimes has failed. The budget plan would instead increase funding to provide stronger oversight and monitoring of defendants who are released from prison pending trial.

The bill would increase spending by $700,000 for a board that oversees police training, certification and verification of misconduct allegations statewide beyond Albuquerque.

Annual K-12 public education spending would increase by $425 million to $3.87 billion, a 12% increase.

Annual Medicaid spending would rise by about $240 million to $1.3 billion as the federal government ends pandemic-related subsidies to the program that provides free health care to the poor.

Budget plan would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to guarantee enrollment for up to a year after birth, instead of 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 postpartum depression, said Mahesh Sita, an American Heart Association legislative specialist who supports the provision.

The majority of births in New Mexico are covered by Medicaid.

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