It’s one week and one day before the New Mexico Legislature convenes for its 2016 session. This is a 30-day session with the main focus on all things financial.

Both the executive and the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) have released their budget recommendations for the coming session, and these feature one major difference. The LFC is recommending an average pay increase of about one percent for state, public education and higher education employees. The executive does not, opting as in years past to target pay increases for employees in specific areas like corrections.

The LFC recommendation comes with a hitch: should revenue projections for FY17 fall below $6.47 billion with an eight percent reserve, the pay increases fall off the table. 

That scenario was discussed at the roundhouse where the House Appropriations and Finance Committee is getting a jump-start on the session earlier. Despite the recent rock ‘n roll stock market and dropping oil prices, the finance analysts will stick with their December projection of about $230 million new dollars for FY17. They will keep monitoring projections and release new numbers if there is a significant change once the session starts and HAFC zeros in on its final version of HB 2, the general appropriations act.

Rep. Lucky Varela (D-Santa Fe) expressed his concerns about the different approaches being taken on compensation. With rising insurance costs, etc., Varela said all state and education employees deserve some increase.

Budget comparisons
UNM fares a bit better in the LFC budget, which recommends an increase of $2.15 million compared to the Executive’s recommended $1.96 million increase. The Health Sciences Center fares a lot better under the LFC recommendations with a proposed increase of $902,000 as compared to the Executive’s $250,000 increase.

Pre-filed bills
Legislators got a running start on introducing legislation for the upcoming session. They’ve been dropping bills into the hopper since mid-December. Pre-filed legislation will be accepted until this coming Friday. An idea of what lawmakers have in mind for higher education in general, and UNM in particular, will be out toward the end of the week.

As a service to the UNM community, a listserv (GOVREL-L) is maintained and used to inform the campus about government initiatives that affect the University of New Mexico. Updates are much more frequent during legislative sessions. To signup, visit: Government Relations.