New Mexico lawmakers were racing against the clock Monday in efforts to raise new money to sustain public school budgets and state agency services in response to a sustained slump in the state’s oil and natural gas sectors and a lackluster state economy.
The 60-day legislative session ends Saturday at noon, with time also running down for approval of a minimum wage hike and a long list of policy reforms that might overhaul campaign finance disclosures, allow medically assisted suicide and respond to federal initiatives from President Donald Trump and Congress.
The Democrat-led House of Representatives on Monday was combing through a Senate-approved plan to increase tax revenues and fees by roughly $350 million to fill a budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year.
“We’re in the tweak stage, we’re not in the square-one stage,” Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf said of negotiations on the revenue bill.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez opposes outright tax increases, calling into doubt Senate-approved plans to raise taxes on gasoline and automobile sales to shore up general fund reserves and pump money into local road and bridge repairs. The Senate voted 34-4 over the weekend to endorse a host of revenue increases designed to stabilize state spending, but the House has yet to sign off on changes to its original bill.
Spending was slashed in October at public schools and most state agencies and was followed this year by a sweep of cash from school district reserves and other government accounts to plug a stubborn deficit for the current fiscal year.
“The cuts have been brutal,” said Democratic majority leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe. “I really think that the fact that we were able to collaboratively — Republicans and Democrats — put forth a budget that doesn’t have more cuts is a good step.”
Wirth acknowledged that the governor could veto