#NMLEG Progressive Bill of the Day | 02-25-15

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Last night saw more legislative drama on the House floor as the debate to pass a $6.2 billion budget turned into a debate about educational funding priorities.

House Democrats introduced a number of amendments to the budget that would have increased funding for Native American programs at UNM and Tribal colleges, increased Lottery Scholarship funding, and given more local control to school districts, among other things.

Here’s how the House Democrats summed up their proposed amendments to the budget bill:

House Republicans vote against funding for Native American programs at UNM and Tribal Colleges
Republicans vote against funding for Native American education, health, and research programs at UNM and the Tribal Colleges

SANTA FE – Today House Democrats introduced an amendment to House Bill 2 that would secure funding for Native American education, health, and research programs at the University of New Mexico and Tribal Colleges.

“Our Native American communities deserve a more secure economy and a brighter future,” said Representative James Roger Madalena, a member of the Native American Caucus. We need to support programs developed and established by the Native American faculty at the University of New Mexico. These programs were created as a response to the needs of UNM students, and a direct response to tribal and community leaders on behalf of tribal communities here and throughout the nation. Many of these programs were identified as areas of priority during the summit initiated by this body in 2005 and held at the University of New Mexico. House Republicans should not be playing politics with the funding for these programs. In the 2014 Legislative Session, the leadership in the House and Senate committed to increase the base budget of these programs and institutionalize these programs. Our Native American students and communities deserve to have a commitment from the legislature that our needed programs will be funded. I cannot support House Bill 2 without the added commitment to fund these programs needed by our Native American communities.”

House Democrats were seeking the following fiscally responsible priority while preserving a balanced budget for New Mexico:

  • Ensuring that Native American cultures are preserved and that Native American students have the opportunity for a quality education by investing funding of $4.375 million.

House Republicans vote against funding New Mexico’s future
Republicans vote against funding for public schools, higher education, economic development, children, seniors, and veterans

SANTA FE – Today House Democrats introduced the New Mexico’s Future proposal to amend the General Appropriations Act, House Bill 2. The New Mexico’s Future proposal would have secured needed funding for our public schools, higher education, economic development, children, seniors, and veterans. The budget proposed by House Republicans lacks over $35 million of needed funding for essential departments and services.

“We have the responsibility to ensure that every New Mexican has a more secure future and the opportunity to get ahead,” said Representative Patty Lundstrom, member of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. “We brought the New Mexico’s Future amendment forward to ensure that the budget we vote on reflects fiscally responsible priorities. The amendment that House Republicans voted against reflected responsible changes that would have created educational opportunities for children and young people; funding that would have kept economic development moving forward, included budget adjustments that would have protected our most vulnerable seniors, and would have allowed us to invest in our veterans and their families. House Republicans should not be playing politics with our state’s budget; because of this I cannot support House Bill 2.”

“It is our responsibility to pass a budget that will give New Mexico a more secure economy,” said Representative Christine Trujillo, member of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. “The funding that was not included in this budget could have made the difference in giving our children the opportunity to get ahead. Ensuring that education in New Mexico is properly funded is one of the main objectives of this budget. Instead of creating a budget that reflects band-aid funding, we should be addressing the needs in New Mexico head on and appropriately fund education. House Republicans had a chance to put our kids and schools before politics but chose to side with out-of-state corporations instead. It’s no secret that standardized tests are a huge money maker for big out-of-state corporations like Pearson Education, Inc. Pearson Education, Inc. is the out-of-state corporation that runs the mandatory PARCC testing that students in Santa Fe have been protesting for the past two days. I cannot support House Bill 2 without the New Mexico’s Future amendment because it does not put the interests of New Mexico’s kids first.”

Here are some of the specific initiatives the House Democrats were looking to amend into the budget bill (from the House Democratic Caucus press release):

  • Increase public school funding by $13.75 million while increasing local control and allowing local communities to prioritize what works in their schools to boost student learning: teacher mentorship, interventions and support for students, struggling schools and parents, and teacher stipends.
  • Making college more affordable by increasing our Lottery Scholarships to cover 95% of student tuition, and protecting critical higher education programs such as athletics and public television by investing $6 million.
  • Stabilizing our higher education institutions – the key to a more secure future for our youth – through budget adjustments.
  • Investing in local economic development projects with funding of $8 million
  • Protecting our homeless veterans, most fragile seniors and other resident of nursing homes, with funding of $2.5 million.

And here’s what House Democratic Leader Brian Egolf had to say after it was all said and done:

“It is disappointing that House Republicans chose to play politics with our budget. House Bill 2 overspends in areas that will continue to hurt our kids and schools, particularly the broken teacher evaluation system and fiscally irresponsible spending for standardized testing. We should not be passing budgets that do not appropriately fund our state’s departments and programs.”