You may be wondering… what is Scott talking about? I’ll admit, since the New Orleans Saints blew their game with the Vikings this past weekend, football is out. And I’m not a big fan of professional basketball. Of course, golf is too slow for me to watch it on television. Thus, I must be talking about the New Mexico Legislature.
Yep… New Mexico political games are starting with a bang. I’m not certain what the total is this afternoon, but when I checked a day or two ago there were 282 bills being introduced for this 30-day session. Basically, if you can name a topic, there may be some bill that is specifically or vaguely related to it.
Salaries – It looks like there could be a move to give a 1% increase across the board for state employees, with additional salary increases for staff in the judiciary, state police, correctional facilities and teachers.
Focus on capital spending – it is being projected that there may be $120 million in Capital funds and $140 million in GO bonds to spend on roads, water projects, buildings, etc.
Economic Development – hopefully there will be no reduction to economic development incentives programs. It would be great to fund JTIP at about $12 million within the Economic Development Depts. Operating budget and maybe about $10 million in funding for LEDA which would maintain a $50 million-dollar fund.
Workers Compensation – It would be great to amend the Workers Compensation Act to reduce the quarterly workers’ compensation assessment fee imposed on employers.
Tourism – tourism in New Mexico is one of the bright spots for state government. It would be nice to increase the state’s tourism budget by about $3.5 million.
More than likely there will be an end-run around the Governor’s office to place an increase in the state’s minimum wage and to legalize marijuana by way of a constitutional amendment, rather than normal legislation. Of course, if regular bills for these issues were passed, the Governor, serving as a referee would call a “foul” and throw her veto flag at them.
If the State of New Mexico wants to increase dollars coming in, we need to find a way to collect the Gross Receipts Tax on remote internet sales.
Crime will be a big topic. We’ll probably see an expansion of current DWI laws to include “drugged driving.” There will be a push to increase the penalties for crimes against children. The New Mexico Judicial Branch is asking for about a 9.6% ($17.5 million) increase in its base budget.
Education – The Governors office will probably ask for “Below the Line” funding of $100 million. There will probably be a push for background checks for teachers, leaders, and support staff. Once again, there will be efforts to create licensure for adjunct instructors. There will be opportunities to expand anti-truancy programs. And there will probably be a bill to establish differentiated compensation for exemplary teachers.
This is a short list of issues to keep an eye on. With only 30 days to approve a budget and adequately plan for the future of New Mexico… state politicians and their staffs will be busy, busy. But they are never too busy to hear from you. If you feel strongly about something coming before the legislature, contact your State Senator or State Representative. If you need a phone number, call the Chamber of Commerce and we will get you the information you need. Let’s just hope New Mexico doesn’t blow the play like the New Orleans Saints did.