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New Mexico governor seeks $800 million spending increase


January 11, 2019
Morgan Lee
Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed a roughly half-billion dollar increase to annual spending on public education on Thursday in an effort to overhaul the state’s struggling school system and respond to lawsuits by parents and school districts.

The budget proposal from the newly inaugurated Democrat would increase annual general fund spending by 13 percent, from $6.3 billion to $7.1 billion, for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The Legislature convenes next week to craft a budget amid a windfall in state government income linked to booming oil and natural gas production in the state’s southeast corner.

The governor’s proposal includes pay raises across public schools and state government, and represents a sharp departure from austere budgeting by her Republican predecessor. Public-school and state jobs would pay at least $12 an hour.

Lujan Grisham campaigned on pledges to pursue universal access to preschool, and her first budget draft sets aside $60 million toward the effort. The goal is 80 percent enrollment within five years.

The governor also has promised to tap into the state’s multibillion-dollar Land Grand Permanent Fund to underwrite early childhood education. That would require legislative approval and a statewide referendum.

The budget also sets money for bilingual and multicultural education, in particular for the Native American population.