House panel set to deal with state budget

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By Barry Massey

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A House committee is putting the finishing touches on a blueprint for spending more than $5 billion next year on public education and government programs.

The House Appropriations and Finance Committee plans Friday to consider a budget proposal for the fiscal year starting in July and supplemental money for health care and other programs this year.

The committee's preliminary budget calls for spending almost $2.4 billion in 2012 on public education, a reduction of nearly 2 percent from this year.

To help finance the budget, the panel proposes to pick up about $39 million from cash balances in programs, including $15 million from the College Affordability Fund, which provides scholarships for college students.

To cut costs by nearly $50 million, lawmakers propose lowering governmental contributions to public employee pensions.