All through this legislative session, much has been heard about the increasingly bad news regarding decreasing revenues and how difficult this makes crafting a state budget. There have been many calls for revenue enhancement (read tax increase), even though this is not a popular notion during an election year. 

This morning, Rep. Lucky Varela (D-Santa Fe) tested the waters in House Business and Employment with HB 324, which repeals 43 different tax credits, deductions and exemptions. This would put about $115 million in state coffers for FY 17 and another $25 million for local government. The waters proved frigid. The committee tabled the bill on a 7 – 4 vote.

Meanwhile in the senate, finance chair John Arthur Smith (D-Deming) championed SB 180, which makes changes to the lottery designed to reinvigorate sluggish sales, maximize market share and also maximize the revenue going to the lottery scholarship fund. However, the bill does away with the minimum 30 percent of lottery revenue going to scholarships and that has caused concern among students, advocacy groups and some senators. The bill was amended to require a floor based on the 2015 contribution of approximately $41 million. It was approved on a 29 – 12 vote and now goes to the House.

Senators also approved a couple of joint memorials of interest. SJM 11 calls for a task force of the Higher Education Department, colleges and universities to study higher education governance to look at systems that may be more effective and efficient than the system currently in place. SJM5/a encourages every agency and entity that receives state funds to review its policies and procedures and adopt a policy to address institutional racism.

Committees will end early tonight as the Senate Lobos and the House Aggies face off in their annual basketball game, with the proceeds going to the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center.