Hello. Keeping you informed on actions in the House:

Budget Concurrence
It took Senators less than 10 minutes yesterday to unanimously approve the $5.9 billion state budget. Today, House members took more than 75 minutes to debate concurrence.

Republican members pointed to Senate changes to public school funding (converting merit pay to stipends) as being unacceptable, among other issues, and called for a conference committee to work out what they termed minor discrepancies. They suggested the Governor would also find the budget unacceptable. Minority floor leader Donald Bratton (R-Hobbs) called for the budget to be sent to the Governor "in an expeditious manner so we have time to address a veto should a veto happen."

Majority floor leader Rick Miera echoed the sentiments of several other members, urging concurrence because the budget, though not perfect, is good for all of the people of New Mexico.

The House voted 37 - 33 to vote for concurrence, which means the budget will be on its way to Governor.

PERA Pensions
We keep an eye on what happens with the Public Employees Retirement solvency fix since it may inform what happens to ERB solvency which now heads to House Appropriations. One of the PERA plan's main selling points is "shared sacrifice," but it only achieves 90 percent solvency in 30 years.

Members opposed to the bill pointed out the growing discrepancies between PERA and ERB, the reduction in PERA employer contributions and COLA reductions. But proposed amendments were rejected, and part of the reasoning is that changes at this late date could threaten the legislation. SB 27a, PERA solvency, passed the House 48 - 17 without further amendment. It now goes to the Governor.

Lottery Bill Tabled
The third time was not the charm for HB 586, which began life as a bill offered by UNM students as a fix for lottery scholarship solvency. It was tabled this morning in House Education, in its third appearence before that committee, where it kept morphing. Today, the committee substitute featured a hybrid of GPA scores and a means test by expected family contributions. The students were credited for their efforts, but like many lottery fixes, 586 will go nowhere.

Given the best chance of passage in the waning days of the session is legislation championed by Sen. Michael Sanchez which pumps more money into the scholarship fund while a fix is crafted. House Memorial 101 calls for a work group to do just that.

Susan McKinsey, Office of Government and Community Relations