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UNM officials react to governor’s budget vetoes

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University of New Mexico officials reacted Friday after Gov. Susana Martinez struck higher education funding from the proposed budget.
“At this juncture, UNM hopes the governor and the Legislature will provide a higher education budget as soon as possible so we can continue to serve New Mexicans,” Acting UNM President Chaouki T. Abdallah said.
Line-item vetoes eliminated $745 million for higher education institutions across New Mexico, setting up a budget cliff on June 30 at universities, colleges and specialty schools for the blind and deaf.
Los Alamos is home to UNM’s Los Alamos campus. Campus officials contacted for reaction said they will do the best they can in light of the uncertainty the situation has caused with planning budgets, whether that is for UNM-LA or the entire UNM system.
“We had been working on our budget for months, and we work with uncertain information, but we work with the best available information that we have at the time,” UNM-LA CEO Cindy Rooney said. “At the time we built our budget, we were looking at a 1 percent cut to our budget, in addition to the cuts we sustained last year. Now, it looks like there will be a  more significant cut, but the cut will be uncertain... in light of recent events we aren’t sure when we will know.”
Rooney said they, and the public should know more after the UNM-LA Advisory board meets with the UNM-LA Monday evening to plan the next budget.
“We will be sharing our draft budget with the Advisory Board this Monday evening, and we will share with them the assumptions they have made in preparing the budget. They will have the opportunity to discuss the budget and decide what actions they want to take,”Rooney said.
As for planning the budget for the UNM system, officials said they won’t know until the dust has settled between the governor and the state Legislature.
“UNM has been engaged for months in its internal budget planning process. In order for that process to be finalized, we must have certainty about the state allocation. Like other public higher education institutions, UNM depends on the state’s contribution to deliver quality education,” Abdallah said.
While education officials were more stayed in their reactions to the governor’s actions, the Democratic leadership in the state Legislature was not.
“The Governor’s actions today are beyond the pale. Her vetoes of all funding for every higher education institution in the state and the entire legislative branch of government are unconstitutional and have provoked a constitutional crisis,” House Speaker Brian Egolf said in a release. “...To fix our state’s budget crisis, the people of New Mexico demand that the governor put her cards on the table and tell the people how she will prevent a disastrous downgraded bond rating for our state.”
In vetoing those funds, Martinez chastised the state Senate for refusing to hold hearings on her nominations for university regents. She said funding and confirmation issues can be addressed when she calls back lawmakers for a special session. A date for that session has not been set.
Acting UNM Provost Craig White told the Los Alamos Monitor that he felt this year’s preparation of the UNM budget was “unusual,” but not because of the politics of the situation, but the timing. Already, the UNM Board of Regents had delayed a proposed, 4-percent tuition hike from the UNM-LA Advisory Board in anticipation of the governor calling a special session.  
“This year is a little bit unusual, because we got a 60-day session, and we’re at where we’re at in terms of the disagreement with the Legislature and the governor,” White said. “With the 60-day session, that pushes it 30 days further than last year. We’ve delayed our annual budget summit with the regents. There really wasn’t that much point in discussing it until we knew better about what was going to come down from Santa Fe.”
As far as Los Alamos Public Schools, the budget figures look more optimistic, according to Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus.
“Statewide, we have a $20 million increase in $2.7 billion of public school funding and expect to have a unit value next week,” Steinhaus said. “The unit value is essential in building the LAPS budget proposal to the school board.  Let’s hope for no cuts in the upcoming Special Legislative session.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.