New Mexico's lawmakers will focus on redesigning public education


A redesign of New Mexico's troubled public education system is at the forefront of legislative priorities, while an enlarged Democratic majority arrives at the state's Capitol Tuesday for a 60-day session.

The inauguration of the Democratic Government Michelle Lujan Grisham to succeed a two-term Republican paved the way for progressive initiatives on climate change, gun control, marijuana regulation, the right to abortion as well as that changes in taxes and subsidies to reduce the state's fiscal dependence on a booming oil industry.

In the November elections, Democrats expanded their majority in the House while consolidating control of all elected positions across the state, from the Attorney General to the Commissioner of Public Lands of the United States. State, which oversees a crucial stream of revenue from energy leases by the state.

The governor and the Allied majority leaders of the State House and Senate said that priority # 1 was to strengthen resources for public education. Introductory proposals would not only increase teachers' salaries, but would also expand public pre-school education, extend the school year by five weeks, and better tailor programs to Spanish and Amerindian students in the region.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Brian Egolf said the goal was to break the vicious circle of poverty.

"Thanks to the huge budget surplus, we have a unique opportunity to achieve a great generation of results, with a new governor committed and ready to lead and a new great majority in the House sharing his priorities", he said.

Government General Fund revenues are expected to exceed spending obligations of $ 1.4 billion in the current fiscal year ending in June and an additional $ 1.1 billion for the year ending in April.

Lujan Grisham proposed an annual increase in general fund spending of about $ 800 million, from $ 6.3 billion to $ 7.1 billion in July. This includes a 12% increase in spending primarily on public education.

The Legislative Finance Committee will release its own first version on Monday.

State economists attribute most of the budget surplus to a sharp increase in oil and natural gas production. And fears of a future oil collapse add urgency to long-term efforts to diversify the economy and stabilize public finances. The Legislative Assembly will explore the possibility of investing more government in local businesses. Egolf claims that Democrats are interested in raising the income tax of the biggest beneficiaries and reducing the tax rates on gross revenue on sales and services.

In public education, school districts in New Mexico depend almost entirely on state government expenditures. The governor's budget proposal would increase annual public education spending by nearly $ 500 million, or $ 3.2 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1, in order to meet the federal government's education needs. order of a judge to increase the resources of public schools.

New Mexico is one of many states where courts have mobilized to fund schools, while frustration among elected officials about budget priorities and the quality of education is growing.

Judge Sarah Singleton of the State District Court entrusted the governor and the legislature until mid-April with the drafting of a plan to correct the widespread violations of the law. constitutional right to adequate education, particularly among students from low-income families, Amerindian and non-English families. . A 600-page court order identifies specific deficiencies and proven solutions, leaving little room for excuses.

"What the court has found is that the state knows that only one in four children reads in third grade," said Gail Evans, senior counsel for a group of plaintiffs. "The state can no longer base the budget on the insufficient budget last year and then inject some money.

The departure of former susana governor Susana Martinez paves the way for attempts to reform firearms safety laws, raise the minimum wage and allow marijuana for recreational purposes – ideas that were anathemas for his republican administration.

A veto-bent bill to ban guns from perpetrators of domestic violence will be back, and lawmakers will consider extending federal background checks to more gun sales. .

The legislature has restricted the weapons to concealed carry permit holders on the day of opening and will carry out a bag check in search of weapons. This is a one – day exception to Statehouse rules allowing portage to be short of legally owned firearms without entry controls.