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A look at the 2018 session

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BY SEN. PETE CAMPOS
D-Dist. 8  (Colfax, Guadalupe, Harding, Mora, Quay, San Miguel and Taos)

As the new year commences, we look to the current legislative session with optimistic caution. Despite a modest increase in state revenue, the budget must address growing state and local needs, federal tax changes and the need for gradual tax modernization. 

We will approach the 2018 legislative session with a delicate balance of spending, investing, saving and vision-building for the future. We will prioritize the state budget to address people’s real needs, reinvigorating our residents’ confidence and their roles in our future economy. The legislature will focus heavily on mental health, public safety, benefits to our elderly, child protective services and health services for underserved communities. We will seek to stabilize the state’s revenue to allow for more strategic and long-term planning. I will work hard during the session to improve the lives of constituents throughout the state of New Mexico.

Our work has already begun, and while legislative sessions typically start slowly, we hit the ground running this year by passing legislation that adds New Mexico to an interstate nursing compact that will allow nurses licensed in other states to continue practicing here. This is especially critical in rural New Mexico, where nurses, particularly ones from out of state, really are the front line of health care delivery and make up a huge part of the staff. The governor has already signed this important bill, and our focus now shifts to other critical areas.

Continuing our commitment to improve the education and well-being of our children, we will work toward quality public education, human services programs and Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) programs that complement each other and better incorporate federally funded Head Start programs. We will provide holistic services for the youth in our communities to better prepare them for entry into tomorrow’s workforce. I also intend to work with my colleagues to improve public safety across the state by investing in operations and training centers so that law enforcement, emergency medical technicians, firefighters and other first responders can more effectively communicate, train and operate.

New Mexico benefits greatly when all branches of government work together. Although there appears to be consensus between the legislature and the governor, we recognize the difficulty in allocating available state resources. It is crucial to establish a more reliable revenue stream by expanding the revenue-generating load among more stakeholders and alleviating the state’s dependence on gross receipts tax, personal income tax and oil and gas revenues

Additionally, major goals for the 2018 legislative session will include replenishing numerous specialty fund reserves, raising reserve levels and closing tax loopholes. The potential targeted tax reform package may address tax pyramiding, internet sales, motor vehicle excise tax and gross receipts tax on hospitals, with the ultimate goal of increasing state revenue without increasing taxes.

The proposed 2018 state budget will benefit New Mexicans in many ways – public employee compensation will increase 1.5 percent, with additional targeted compensation for prison guards, nurses and social workers; state equalization guarantee and teacher compensation will increase for public schools; our colleges and universities will receive increases in funding through our capital outlay process; the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute at Las Vegas (BHI), the CYFD and law enforcement will receive an increase in funding; and Medicaid funding will also be increased.

I will further seek to improve the roads and highways of New Mexico through a highway construction and improvements bill that will be voted on as a general obligation bond in the amount of $49 million in Senate Bill 94. I will work diligently to improve our information technology systems so that New Mexico students have the best connectivity at school, medical facilities have the best technology systems to deliver real-time and efficient health care to patients and small businesses can operate with efficient accountability systems. 

I will target funding and provide support to the advocates who are addressing the opioid addiction epidemic that is devastating our communities. I will also support an increase to the tourism and economic development budgets, which will benefit both rural and urban New Mexicans.