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The New Mexico House of Representatives passed a proposed state budget Feb. 5 that contains total recurring appropriations of $7.614 billion, a 7.5 percent ($529 million) increase over the current fiscal year, according to a news release from House Democrats.
“A budget is a moral document,” New Mexico State Rep. Nathan Small, D-Doña Ana, said in a telephone interview. The proposed budget, recommended by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee of which Small is a member, “is very much in keeping with the values we hold dear from southern New Mexico.”
“I’m very proud we are saying our children’s education, from the materials, the classrooms tools need sufficient funding, as do educators and all school staff. I am especially proud of the five percent raise for teachers,” he said, “especially since we know our teacher shortage harms kids, harms communities and we have to push back. It’s really exciting that Las Cruces and southern New Mexico are leading in innovative ways to address that shortage and leading the way for education.”
The proposed budget includes additional funding for community schools and for dual-credit programs, which are two areas in which Las Cruces is leading the state, he said.
Small said the bill also provides funding increases to support better health insurance, provider rate increases “so our health care providers can increase their services” and behavioral health care. To not have proposed improvements to health care would have let the people of New Mexico … down,” Small said.
The bill is now being debated in the state Senate, Small said. And because the House acted in a timely fashion on the budget, the two houses have time “to do the fine tuning and the work back and forth” that is a part of the budget process.
The 30-day session of the legislature that began Jan. 21 ends at noon Feb. 20.