• Legislative Report Feb. 20, 2020

    February 20, 2020

    Roosevelt County Chamber's
    Legislative Report
    Feb. 20, 2020
    Legislature Adjourns/Budget Sent To Governor
    The NM Legislature ended its 30-day session in its normal fashion with a flurry at the end that included a late night on Wednesday in order to get a budget to the Governor's desk. They accomplished that in the wee hours of Thursday morning passing a $7.6 billion budget. The budget would provide a 4 percent pay raise for all state employees including teachers. After the budget bill left the House the Senate proclaimed it out of balance and began cutting. Among the cuts was the originally proposed 5 percent for teacher pay. The Senate also brought reserves up from the 23 percent approved by the House to 25 percent. Once the bill went back to the House for concurrence it was not without more drama as a dust-up between the parties occurred when the Speaker called the vote with numerous Republicans not in chamber at the time. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has the final say and can use the line item veto to further cut items she chooses.

    Early Childhood Fund Established
    One of the early bills signed by the Governor in this session included a measure establishing an Early Childhood Trust Fund. The effort will be seeded with a $320 million initial investment with intentions of adding more in coming years if budget surpluses continue. The hope is for the fund to eventually grow to $1 billion which would then provide $30-40 million a year for early childhood programs. The legislature has stepped up its spending for early childhood greatly over the last year, creating a new department last session and has ramped up spending in the current fiscal year to more than $500 million.

    Loaded With Capital Outlay
    Legislators also approved $528 million in capital spending during the session. We haven't fully digested what capital outlay measures relating to our area have made it through the session and we won't know for sure until after the Governor signs the budget bill but indications are that there will be more to spend on local projects than we've seen in many years. City Manager Sammy Standefer briefed the Chamber Board on what he was expecting earlier this week and said there would be $700,000 available for the Kilgore street project as well as money for new vehicles for the police department and other items. ENMU folks seemed positive as well with several projects on the deck there including one building remodel. We'll try to get a complete list of capital outlay flowing to the area in next week's report.

    Public Employee Retirement Shored Up
    The legislature passed a financial fix of the Public Employee Retirement Association that will slowly pull the entity away from the edge of insolvency. The PERA was facing $6 billion in liability. The measure would call for a rise in contributions from both employees and public employers and would suspend cost of living raises for two years. After that a formula related to the markets in which funds are invested would be applied to cost of living raises.

    Opportunity Scholarship Passes
    At the end of the session the Senate left the Governor's proposed Opportunity Scholarship in the budget but only provided $17 million instead of the $34 million the Governor had sought to fund the idea. Compromises were reached on how the scholarships would pay out to coordinate better with the lottery scholarship and federal student aid, but it's unclear just how this idea proceeds because late LFC estimates for what it would cost to run the program were north of $60 million annually.

    Public Collective Bargaining Bill Passes
    In another bill that passed in the wee hours of the morning Wednesday, was one that changes the state's system of collective bargaining with public employees from local labor boards to a centralized state system. Roosevelt County officials had told Chamber staff they were vehemently opposed to the measure. It appeared the bill was dead in committee but came back to life in the night in the form of a dummy bill which is legislation that is pre-filed so that a bill can be slapped in late.

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