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Gallegos introduces bill establishing early childhood trust fund

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State Rep. and New Mexico House of Representatives Majority Whip Doreen Y. Gallegos, D-Doña Ana, has introduced House Bill 83, which she said will establish an early childhood education trust fund in New Mexico. The bill will be considered during the 2020 session of the New Mexico Legislature that convenes Jan. 21 in Santa Fe.

HB83 is co-sponsored by state Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Luna, Hidalgo, Grant, Sierra, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. It has the support of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

“Gov. Lujan Grisham knows the critical importance of permanently investing in New Mexico children,” said Lujan Grisham’s press secretary, Nora Sackett. “The Early Childhood Trust Fund will deliver that goal to New Mexico families and build an educational foundation for future generations, putting the state's revenue to work for perhaps its most meaningful purpose: Comprehensively changing the dynamic of early childhood education in this state, forever. The trust fund will generate its own revenue and be self-sustaining, the culmination of a long and dedicated push to create this kind of funding mechanism. The governor looks forward to working with the legislature to enable the state to launch this permanent positive cycle of investment and opportunity in New Mexico families and young children. Personally, I hope to see broad support for such an important measure concerning the early education of New Mexico children, which is surely an issue we can all get behind.”

"I have been introducing bills to establish a new education fund since 2017," Gallegos said. "It all came together this summer and fall. The Legislative Finance Committee has recommended a $320 million jump start for the fund. The idea of the fund has evolved, and I hope 2020 will be the year my four-year effort crosses the finish line.”

The legislation creates a trust fund rather than a permanent fund so "we don't run into the technical issues we have encountered with the current permanent funds," said Gallegos, who is in her seventh year in the New Mexico House.

Initial funding will come from oil and gas revenues and budget surpluses and has an annual revenue steam, she said, adding that there are “safeguards in the legislation so that the legislature can't simply raid the trust fund if the state runs into budget shortfalls.”

Gallegos said the bill also includes a provision from longtime state Sen. Carlos Cisneros of Questa and Taos, who died in 2019. That provision “will generate money to the fund from excess federal mineral leases revenue,” Gallegos said. “That was something Sen. Cisneros wanted to pass, so I'm honored to have his legacy as a part of this bill."

Gallegos said she is optimistic that HB83 will pass during the 2020 legislative session. "I have buy-in from key leadership in the legislature,” she said. “I have a team of supporters, advocates and groups from across the state supporting the bill and I think the time is right to pass some historic legislation that will serve kids in New Mexico for years to come," Gallegos said.

“I will strongly support the bill,” said state Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Doña Ana. “I applaud Rep. Gallegos for her advocacy.”

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