The New Mexico Legislature adjourns at noon today, and the House of Representatives completed the primary task for the 30-day session, approving a more-than six-billion dollar state budget bill Wednesday. The House okayed the proposed spending plan on a 58-8 vote. The measure now goes to Governor Susana Martinez. The legislature's budget represents a five-percent increase from last year.
Using authority extended by the state, the Santa Fe school board voted 3-2 on Tuesday to impose a property tax increase to generate up to 55-million dollars without asking voters. The tax hike will cover costs of the school district's digital learning plan, which upgrades technology at all 32 of the district's schools. State law gives school districts the authority to increase property taxes for technological upgrades without putting the question to voters.
The House is sending a six-billion dollar state budget proposal back to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee for it to try to break a stalemate over state education spending. The budget failed last week, with Republicans contending that it shortchanged Governor Susana Martinez's school proposals. An item on the table is a possible shift of 17-million dollars to fund educational programs overseen by the Public Education Department.
A proposed constitutional amendment to raise New Mexico's minimum wage to eight-dollars, thirty-cents an hour and provide for annual inflation increases rate has cleared a Senate panel. The Rules Committee voted 6-4 along party lines Friday to forward the measure to another panel for consideration. If approved by the Legislature, the minimum wage proposal would be placed on the November general election ballot for voters to decide. The current minimum wage is seven-fifty an hour and hasn't been adjusted in five years.
Incumbent Third-District Congressman Ben Ray Lujan will have an opponent in this year’s Democratic primary. The Journal North reports Albuquerque Assistant District Attorney Robert Blanch filed as a Democratic candidate for the Congressional seat, as did Lujan. Republican rancher Jefferson Byrd of Tucumcari—who lost to Lujan two years ago--also filed to run for the post again this year.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez says while New Mexico needs to be very careful about what we put in the State Constitution, he favors at least two Senate Joint Resolutions introduced during the current legislative session. Sanchez, a Democrat from Belen, says voters should decide on a proposal regarding early-childhood education. *****020414-Sanchez-2 :23***** Sanchez also favors a proposed amendment calling for annual adjustments to the state's minimum wage. Twenty-one Senate Joint Resolutions have been introduced this legislative session.
The interim chief of the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange, Mike Nunez, now says problems with the federal “healthcare-dot-gov” website when it was rolled out last fall slowed New Mexico’s efforts to promote enrollment in the exchange. Nunez telling the New Mexican the results will be lowered enrollment expectations by as much as one-half. The state had expected up to 83,000 people to enroll in insurance plans through the exchange this year. Nunez says the state is now estimating between 40-thousand and 50-thousand will enroll.
Senator Tom Udall is praising President Obama's intention to take steps to bolster the middle class. Udall spoke following the President's State of the Union address Tuesday night: *****012914-Udall-2 :22***** Fellow New Mexico Democrat, Senator Martin Heinrich said he was encouraged by the president's commitment to creating opportunities for small businesses, students and immigrants.