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Where’s money coming from?

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By Ralph Damiani

It was good to hear state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-Valencia) say that he supports education funding in spite of a daunting budget shortfall facing existing and future state budgets.

“We are facing a potentially severe budget shortfall in the current fiscal year, with some estimates totaling over $500 million,” he said.  “While it may be inevitable that we will be forced to make cuts, I am adamantly opposed to any cuts in education.  Education is the cornerstone of our entire society.  Without adequately funding K-12 and higher education, what kind of future can we offer our children?”

That’s great. But if we increase – or even maintain – education funding, where do we cut?

The current year’s budget appropriated over $2.5 billion for public education, representing 43 percent of the total general fund, and $880 million for higher education, representing 14.5 percent of the total general fund.

Funding for education has increased by 4 percent on average over the past several years and we wonder how that will be able to continue.

Anyone who has been outside this weekend has seen that gas has dropped below $2. That is killing the state. So all the extra spending that the governor and our Democratically controlled Legislature approved – with the belief that oil would stay high – is now coming back to haunt us big time.

And we warned that this is exactly what would happen.

This past week the governor announced freezes and reductions. But is seems clear that he will  be nowhere around to deal with the mess he’s made. He’ll be off in Washington in the Obama administration.

And we will be left holding a huge bag.

Sanchez is right, education is a priority. We wish there could be some responsibility there, some accountability in the system – just throwing more and more money at the issue has not and will not work.

But in saying education is a priority is unrealistic. There are many priorities the state has to deal with. From Medicaid to roads, there is a lot to do.

And this Legislature is going to be faced with some tough times.

Good luck Gov. Diane Denish.

Congratulations

And speaking of education, we all here in Los Alamos should join those at Thursday night’s school board meeting who gave Superintendent Mary McLeod a ringing cheer. Her efforts with the Legislature went a long way to protecting the school district’s funding and its superior education opportunities.

She deserves a long and loud cheer!