New Mexico lawmakers convene for legislative session
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico lawmakers returned to work Tuesday and kicked off the 30-day session with the State of the State address delivered by Governor Susana Martinez.
The governor said jobs and education are two of the biggest priorities for the shorter legislative session.
"We should expect a return on our education dollars and that return should be student achievement," Governor Martinez said during her speech.
Martinez proudly announced the state is spending more on education than ever before.
Her plan would add $100 million more to help struggling schools and incentivize high performing teachers.
"We should support our teachers with additional pay and reward and recognize effective teachers," she said.
Martinez would like to use funds to identify struggling students as well as double monies for kindergarten programs.
In the Democratic response, Senator Bill Soules from Dona Ana County said there has to be real change for the state to improve in education and it starts at an early age.
"We need to insure a high quality early childhood program that insures that every child has access," Senator Soules said.
Soules said Democrats want to see a 5 percent pay increase across the board as opposed to just high performing teachers.
The governor and Senator Soules both agreed building and repairing water infrastructure is as important now as ever.
Martinez has been pushing lawmakers to use 60 percent of capital outlay funds to pay for renovations to water systems in communities throughout the state.
Democrats agree it is important but they disagree on how the $112 million dollars should be distributed.
"She (Governor Martinez) doesn't include us in how best to spend that in our communities where we know what the needs are," Soules aid.
Both parties feel infrastructure improvements would attract new companies and bring in jobs.
Martinez said it's important to improve the business climate in the state and promote small businesses that will keep the state competitive and in the black.
After speaking for about 45 minutes, Martinez did not address the ongoing controversy with 15 behavioral health care facilities accused of alleged fraud.
The governor did call again for lawmakers to repeal a law allowing undocumented immigrants to receive driver's licenses.
Soules said Democrats will push for living wage and put it on the ballot for voters in november as a constitutional amendment.