“Maybe next year” is the new mantra of the 2016 legislative session. “Maybe next year there will be money for compensation increases.” “Maybe next year there will be more money for behavioral health, or early childhood education, or higher education.”
The House Appropriations and Finance Committee approved its committee substitute for HB 2, the general appropriations act, on a 12 – 5 vote. There were no 11th-hour miracles for higher education, which has been nicked with a 0.4 percent cut to every general fund line item. As we reported on Tuesday, that adds up to a $1.39 million combined cut for UNM and HSC.
A number of committee members bemoaned the cuts to higher education. Rep. Doreen Gallegos (D-Las Cruces) wondered how schools could be expected to improve performance and meet measurable outcomes when the funds to help them do that are taken away.
Other committee members were bothered by the fact that non-recurring funds are plugging up recurring lines. Rep. Patty Lundstrom (D-Gallup) warned that whoever survives the elections to come back next session would have a $52 million hole to fill as they walk in the door.
Chairman Larry Larranaga (R-Albuquerque) noted all states dependent on oil and gas had to overcome shortfalls. For example, Oklahoma is short $1.5 billion, while North Dakota is down $1 billion.
HB 2 now heads to the full House for possible action Saturday. Then it is on to the Senate, where Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith (D-Deming) has been talking about the need to raise or at least preserve revenues by stalling or reversing some planned tax cuts. That notion is not one shared by the Governor. But “maybe next year ….”