.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

2018 State Legislature: Gov. highlights budget needs

-A A +A

SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on Monday describing a House-approved budget as soft on crime in a push to increase salaries for State Police, corrections officers, prosecutors and public defenders.

Her comment came as Senate lawmakers weighed amendments to a $6.3 billion spending package for the coming fiscal year.

Disagreements over compensation for state law enforcement agencies boil down to less than $15 million — a fraction of the state general fund budget — but have emerged as a focal point of budgetary discord between the Republican governor in her final year in office and New Mexico’s Democrat-led Legislature.

The Legislature has until Feb. 15 to send the governor a spending bill, which can be vetoed line-by-line or entirely.

The House last week approved a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for all state employees, with an additional 4.5 percent increase for court personnel, state police, prison guards, parole officers and staff at district attorney offices.

The Martinez administration has said the plan doesn’t go far enough in boosting law enforcement-related salaries, particularly at the largest district attorney’s office that oversees Albuquerque, amid acute concerns about urban crime there.

The House-approved spending plan “leaves law enforcement and the district attorney in Albuquerque — one of the areas hardest hit by the recent crime wave — woefully underfunded,” Emilee Cantrell, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in an email.

Democratic Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith of Deming says legislative leaders understand the need to increase law enforcement and judiciary salaries — making sure last year to provide incremental increases even as the state struggled with solvency.

“We’re glad that she has discovered that compensation is an issue — better late than never,” Smith said.
Smith said budget priorities from House lawmakers who are running for re-election may take precedent over the outgoing governor, who cannot run for re-election in November. The House voted 65-3 on its budget bill.

“We’re willing to work together (with the Martinez administration), but it’s not going to be all one way,” Smith said.
Beyond law enforcement funding, the governor and lawmakers are largely in agreement on major increases in general fund spending for teacher pay and early education programs, an extension of incentives to lure businesses to New Mexico and the need to set aside at least 10 percent of annual general fund spending for the next oil-sector bust or recession.

Competing pay proposals for corrections staff differ by less than a dollar an hour, while the governor’s office estimates that State Police patrol officers could end up an additional $2.15 an hour under its plan.