This fledgling New Year already brings budget recommendations from the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) and the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) that will provide baselines for budget talks in the upcoming session of the New Mexico Legislature. The DFA recommendation reflects the wishes of Governor Susana Martinez.
Overall, the LFC recommends a $6.15 billion state budget featuring a spending increase of 4.3 percent. The DFA recommendation is a more modest $6.07 billion with a three percent increase.
Compensation comprises the biggest difference between the two recommendations. The LFC proposes a 1.5 percent increase for all state, public school and higher education employees. The DFA budget does not, but rather proposes $14.2 million for targeted increases for employees like state police, corrections officers, and IT workers – about 32 percent of the total state workforce.  Increases for the remaining employees would be considered in future years.
Higher education sees proposed increases in general fund dollars of 3.9 percent from the LFC and 2.6 percent from the DFA.  Drilling down further, UNM gets a 4.2 percent increase of $12.541 million in general fund dollars from the LFC. In the DFA recommendation, UNM gets a 2.4 percent increase of $7.188 million.
Another major difference is reflected in capital outlay, where Gov. Susana Martinez wants fully 60 percent of severance tax bond funds (about $112 million) to shore up water infrastructure throughout the state. 
The Governor also earmarks funds for economic development that include $2 million for the Technology Research Collaborative, which promotes tech transfer partnerships between universities, national labs and the private sector. In addition, she proposes $7.5 million for the Higher Ed Endowment Fund to attract top faculty. To expand the health care workforce, the Governor also recommends that UNM Health Sciences Center get $1.6 million for 24 additional nurse practitioner slots and $750,000 to expand the number of family practice residency slots.
The Office of Government and Community Relations will provide a detailed comparison of the LFC and DFA recommendations, as both pertain to UNM, on its website in the next few days. The 2014 Bill Tracker is also up and running, allowing users to bookmark to refer to and remain current. Also, consider recommending that colleagues sign up for these updates.
Lottery Scholarship
Both budget recs recommend an $11 million supplemental appropriation that will keep lottery scholarships whole for the 2014 spring semester – good news for students. The LFC also recommends $10.9 million to keep the program afloat in the coming fiscal year, providing changes to the scholarship are approved, such as capping scholarship levels, increasing the GPA from 2.5 to 2.75 and requiring 15 credit hours per semester rather than the current 12 hours.
Look for more reports on budget and lottery and capital outlay as the 2014 Legislative session commences at noon on Jan. 21.