2018 State Legislature: Legislative roundup, Jan. 18, 2018

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The New Mexican


Days remaining in session: 28

A raise for politicians? The state's top elected officials are past due for a raise, according to some members of a legislative committee.

But Gov. Susana Martinez might not agree to a pay raise for her successor and other politicians.

The Legislative Finance Committee has backed a bill to increase the governor's salary by 10 percent effective Jan. 1, 2019 -- right after Martinez leaves office. The secretary of state, state auditor, attorney general and several other elected officials would get a raise, too.

They have not had one since 2002.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Democrat from Deming who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, has said salaries must keep up with the private sector.

The attorney general, for example, is paid $95,000 a year. A 2012 survey by the New Mexico Bar Association found the average salary for lawyers in this state was more than 10 percent higher. And that was six years ago.

The governor is paid $110,000 a year. The secretary of state gets $85,000.

Of course, New Mexico also has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country, making the issue a little uncomfortable for some lawmakers.

A spokeswoman for Martinez said Wednesday that the Republican governor would veto any bill that only focuses on raises for politicians.

Inspiration: State Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, readily admits he was unenthusiastic about heading to Santa Fe for this legislative session. Then the unexpected happened.

Soules returned to Oñate High School, where he taught before retiring, to meet with students. He said the kids were engaged and excited about their government.

"It put a smile on my face," he said. "I felt good about the future because they are the future."

Soules said the kids at Oñate cared so much that they revived his enthusiasm for legislating.

Too often, he said, people overlook the curiosity and intellect of students, as well as their ability to inspire others.

Political couple: An attorney from Las Cruces on Wednesday entered the Democratic primary for Congress in the 2nd District, which covers the southern half of the state.

Xochitl Torres Small is a graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and The University of New Mexico School of Law. She previously was a field representative for U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico.

Torres Small is married to state Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces. He unseated longtime Rep. Andy Nuñez in 2016.

Looking ahead: The 1,000 Kid March will begin at 11:30 a.m. Thursday on the West Concourse of the Capitol. The rally is organized by advocates for a proposed constitutional amendment that would expand early childhood education by using a portion of the state's land-grant endowment.

Children brought to the march are toddlers who would benefit from early childhood programs. Many will wear cowboy hats, bandanas and badges, the latter a symbol of being "deputized" as defenders of the endowment.