There is always some drama to be had during the waning hours of the session. The great unknown was whether agreement on funding to buttress the lottery scholarship for the coming year would make it out of conference committee and be adopted on both floors before the session's adjournment sine die at noon. Where there's a will ...
The conference agreement on SB113 pumps $10 million of non-recurring tobacco settlement reserves into the lottery scholarship fund with an equal amount going to early childhood programs and another $40 million for the programs typically funded by the tobacco settlement. Both houses approved the agreement with 35 minutes to spare. No sweat.
The big tax package passed the House with literally seconds to spare. Much much more exciting.
The $5.9 billion state budget awaits action by the Governor and a fate far from settled. Among its many features is a 3.5 percent increase in state funding for UNM, as well as funding for a one percent pay increase and $20 million to bolster the state's faculty endowment fund.
There is $10.1 million in capital outlay projects for UNM contained in the severance tax bond package ... money for Castetter, Farris Engineering, campus lighting, buses and more. This also sits on Governor's desk.
So does the ERB solvency plan, which was the product of a year of hard work by the stakeholders followed by a few days of political reality. The bill with its shared sacrifice and 100.7 percent solvency promise is hoped to meet executive approval.
With this morning's action and executive approval, there should be enough money in the lottery scholarship fund for the coming year. But a permanent fix still has to be negotiated. The proposed solution by UNM students never caught traction in House Education. None of these lottery bills made it through.
The state graduate tax credit made it to Senate Finance relatively early in the session never to be seen again, which was a disappointment for our graduate students. Their bill got caught up in the uncertainty of revenue availability and sequestration.
These are just some of the highlights as much more of note to UNM occurred during the session. As always you can catch up on all the action via the Bill Tracker on the Government Relations website. It has been religiously maintained and will be through the deadline for executive action on April 5.
A final shout out to the entire government relations team who lived and breathed all things Roundhouse these last several months. It's time for a well-deserved recharge before the process begins yet again.
Susan McKinsey, Office of Government and Community Relations