New Mexico's budget makes its way to Governor's Office

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Feb. 13—Lawmakers approved a record $10 billion-plus budget Tuesday, accomplishing their main goal of this year's 30-day legislative session.

Next stop: the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The House of Representatives took less than a half-hour to discuss and vote to concur with a proposed $10.22 billion budget already approved by the Senate.

House Bill 2, the state's spending plan for fiscal year 2025, increases spending over the current fiscal year by 6.8%, or $653 million, and includes a slew of appropriations, including pay raises that would make the New Mexico State Police the highest-paid police agency in the state.

That was one of a number of crime-fighting initiatives Lujan Grisham said she wanted to see this year prior to the beginning of the 30-day session, which traditionally is focused on the budget.

Rep. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, said while he is a supporter of all law enforcement personnel, he had concerns the pay raises would draw officers from local and regional agencies away as they seek higher pay with the state police.

As a result, he said, there could be "staffing issues" in departments throughout the state.

Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, said the final bill includes $70 million in new, Senate-approved money for the state Department of Transportation — which brings its budget to nearly $750 million and can be used to upgrade and repair roads and bridges around the state.

In addition to funding an array of other projects, programs and initiatives, the spending plan seeks to turn this year's record revenues into what many lawmakers have called "future money."

It invests a significant amount of expected revenue increases in the next fiscal year into funds that will generate a percentage of their earnings down the road.

That approach was pitched by members of the Legislative Finance Committee days before this year's session began. They argued it was a wise way to spread out record revenues, primarily fueled by the state's oil and gas industry, without having to repeatedly fund new initiatives with recurring money.

A few House members posed a few broad questions regarding the transportation funding and other initiatives, but no one expressed any specific argument about the overall changes the Senate made.

House Speaker Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, called for a concurrence vote on both HB 2 and House Bill 3 — the appropriation act for the Department of Transportation — at the same time based on calls of "yea" or "nay."

After Martínez said the "yeas" had it, Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said he wasn't so sure about that.

"If I had the red flag I'd ask you to recheck the replay," Montoya said, referring to a practice in the National Football League and eliciting laughter from the assembly.

The governor has 20 days to sign the bill into law. She also can use her veto power to line out individual portions of the budget, as she and other governors have done in the past.

This year's session ends at noon Thursday.