Financial analysts from New Mexico’s Departments of Finance and Administration, Taxation and Revenue, and Transportation spent their summer with Legislative Finance Committee staff, reaching agreement on how much new money the legislature will have to work with when building the FY 17 state budget. Last week, they presented their findings to the Legislative Finance Committee, announcing $293 million in projected new money.
Given the current financial climate, Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith (D-Deming) was “strongly suspicious” of the figures. House Appropriations Chair Larry Larranaga (R-Albuquerque) reminded the analysts that they told a similar story exactly a year ago, only to have their projected revenues slashed twice before the 2015 legislative session. Rep. Jimmie Hall (R-Albuquerque) figures the analysts have already overprojected by at least $75 million. Budget veteran Rep. Lucky Varela (D-Santa Fe) doubts the numbers will hold, but he wants new money earmarked for across the board pay raises for state and education workers. The Martinez administration traditionally prefers targeted pay hikes.
Lawmakers say they’ll wait for the January projections before getting overly excited or distraught. In the meantime, they will try to manage if not deflate the expectations of all the folks wanting a piece of the new money pie.
UNM-Taos hosted last week’s LFC hearings in the latest of a long string of interim committees that have met at UNM environs this summer. Main campus hosted the LFC in June, followed by Science & Technology, Water & Natural Resources, Radioactive & Hazardous Materials, Health & Human Services, and Courts, Corrections & Justice. Taos also hosted the Land Grant Committee, while UNM-Gallup hosted Courts & Corrections and Indian Affairs.
In addition, UNM presenters handled 25 agenda items at these and other interim committee hearings. There will be a couple more committees meeting on campus before October.