In a session that seemed to limp along for weeks on end, everything that needed to get accomplished was accomplished as the Legislature adjourned at noon today.
It wouldn’t be a final day without brinkmanship. This morning, it revolved around SB 347, the lottery scholarship bill crafted by Majority Floor Leader Sen. Michael Sanchez (D-Belen) that was amended in the house with an hour left in the session. At risk was $11.5 million in the state budget contingent on lottery solvency legislation being approved.
On a 41 – 25 vote, the house adopted a comprehensive amendment from Rep. Jason Harper (R-Rio Rancho) that closely tracked elements in his own lottery bill. Rather than the “frontloading” found in SB 347, the amendment called for a uniform percentage award for all students, depending on funds available. The amendment also placed a two-year sunset on SB 347’s use of liquor excise tax funding to bolster the scholarship fund beginning in FY 16. The amended bill was approved 66 – 1 and sent back to the Senate.
With three minutes left in the session, the senate concurred with the House amendments. The bill now goes to Gov. Martinez, who has until March 12 to act on all bills.
The severance tax bond bill also survived eleventh hour changes and will go to the Governor. It contains $3.752 million for several UNM capital projects, including Physics and Astronomy, the Anderson School of Management and safety measures on Johnson Field.
Earlier this week, the general obligation bond bill passed both houses. It ultimately will go to the voters for approval this November. It contains $20.5 million for Farris Engineering renovation, $12 million for the Domenici Health Education building expansion and $6.5 million for projects at UNM branch campuses.
The State Budget
Last but not least, the $6.19 billion state budget was approved yesterday and sent to the Governor. It contains a 3.1 percent increase for UNM main campus funding and a 1.1 percent increase for HSC funding. It also contains money that amounts to a 1.5 percent pay increase for employees who are funded through I&G. That’s about 62 percent of UNM employees. There is also a $4 million infusion of funds for the higher education endowment.
Three Strikes Out
The State Graduate Tax Credit, known as the “Reverse the Brain Drain” bill that was crafted by UNM graduate students in 2012, died once again in the house. Its future is uncertain as perennial sponsor Sen. Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque) will be seeking statewide elected office.
The university, like much of the state, may not have gotten everything it wanted in this 2014 legislative session, but it got the legislation that mattered most. This can be attributed to UNM’s teamwork in Santa Fe.