The Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) revealed its budget recommendations for the 2015-16 fiscal year this morning. Usually these recommendations are the best indicator of how the budget built by legislators during the upcoming session will look.
However, with oil and gas revenues continuing to tank, these are not usual times. The numbers likely won't hold. LFC staff will even be preparing an alternative scenario that reflects available revenues closer to the start of the session Jan. 20.
Still working with December revenue estimates, the LFC recommends a $6.29 billion general fund budget for FY16, which is $140.4 million or 2.3 percent higher than the current year. It still leaves an operating reserve of $516 million or 8.2 percent.
Regarding higher education, the following comes straight from the LFC executive summary:
“For FY 16, the committee recommends $857.5 million in general fund appropriations for the Higher Education Department, colleges and universities and special schools. This is an increase of $18.8 million, or 2.2 percent, over FY15 appropriations. The recommendation increases support for the instruction and general (I&G) formula funding ($13.8 million), the UNM Health Sciences Center instruction and general expenditures ($470 thousand), research and public service projects ($3.1 million) and student financial aid programs and adult basic education ($1.4 million). Building on the Legislature’s efforts to address the state’s shortage of healthcare workers, the recommendation expands the capacity of graduate nursing education and resident physician programs, in addition to increasing loan repayment programs for licensed healthcare practitioners in New Mexico.”
The LFC will release its full budget breakdown next week, but committee chairman Rep. Lucky Varela (D-Santa Fe) reminds us all that the numbers could shift significantly. “New Mexico is in the odd position of seeing good news at the gas pump and bad news in the committee room.”
The budget recommendations from the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA), which reflect the thinking of Gov. Susana Martinez, are expected closer to the session’s start.