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2021 NEW MEXICO LEGISLATURE

Budget bill ready for House floor vote

Posted

The New Mexico House Appropriations and Finance Committee has completed work on a $7.39 billion budget for fiscal year 2022, passing it out of committee on a unanimous vote Monday, Feb. 22.

House Bill 2 increases spending by 4.6 percent over the previous year. About half of that increase would go toward replacing federal stimulus funds swapped in this year’s budget. Even with the spending increase, officials project they will have 24 percent in reserves.

“Today, we have a responsible budget that puts New Mexico in a position of strength with the ability to invest in hardworking New Mexican families, local businesses, and our state’s future,” Committee Chair Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, said in a prepared statement. “We have avoided making cuts that would set New Mexico back, and instead are poised for a successful recovery.”

It is expected that the bill will move quickly to a flood vote, then over to the Senate.

Breaking away

Carlsbad residents made their case to members of the House Education Committee Monday as to why they would be better served if the New Mexico State University branch campus there were converted into an independent college, to be called Southeast New Mexico College.

The major difference is who governs the college, said Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, sponsor of House Bill 212. NMSU regents have oversight over a wide system, she said. This change would give the Carlsbad campus local leaders who better understand the needs of the community, Brown said.

The transfer would take place in April 2022, she said. NMSU would still maintain control of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring Center, but all other assets would move over. “There’s kind of a sweet sorrow in parting,” Brown said, adding that NMSU could still be the college of choice for those moving on to a four-year degree.

The committee was unable to complete debate on the bill Monday and will resume the discussion Wednesday.

Graduation plans

Changes to New Mexico’s high school graduation standards that would make financial literacy or economics a requirement and give students more control over their curriculum passed the House on a 66-1 vote Monday, with Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, the lone dissenter. It now moves to the Senate.

House Bill 83 would require students to create their own “capstone” classes to prepare them for life after graduation. For example, students who want to go into farming could create a science credit around agriculture.

The bill would require one course in financial literacy or economics but would remove the current requirement for Algebra II. Sponsor Rep. Andres Romeo, D-Albuquerque, said the algebra requirement had become a “threshold” for graduation. “When you set requirements like this that are difficult, without any justifiable reason, they become watered down so students can pass it,” he said. 

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.