New Mexico legislators wary of spending in fear of federal cuts

New Mexico legislators wary of spending in fear of federal cuts

POSTED: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 11:18pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 11:39pm

 The Legislative Finance Committee proposed a $5.9 Billion budget plan for the next fiscal year. This after an expected $200 Million more in state revenue will become available.

The proposed money will go to multiple state-run programs.

Medicaid would get $35 million, with about half of that money going into implementing mandatory provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

The state's Tourism Department would get a $1.5 million boost while another part of the plan would give all state workers a 1 percent pay hike, the first such raise since 2008.

State and Motor Transportation Police would get an additional 3 percent raise on top of that in an attempt to keep more officers in the department.

Lawmakers said they were cautious about spending too much of that money because of worries about automatic federal cuts that were pushed back by Congress in January.

"We're going to move gingerly so to speak," said Sen. John Arthur Smith (D - Deming), the LFC's chair. "We're pleased we have additional dollars but we're still apprehensive with the economy and what's going to happen with the federal dollars."

Albuquerque Teachers Federation president Ellen Bernstein said the pay hike was better than nothing but wasn't nearly enough. Bernstein said the likelihood of pension cuts being approved this legislative session and increased federal payroll taxes that cut down on take-home pay are putting the squeeze on her members and a 1 percent raise isn't enough to make up the difference.

"I think teachers will be disappointed to the point of being insulted," Bernstein said. "We want to make sure that we don't just attract teachers but we retain teachers."

The Governor is planning on unveiling her administration's vision for the state budget on Thursday.

(KRQE contributed to this story)

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