House Passes Budget, Opportunity Scholarship Future | The Line

1332 Line Budget Update

February 7, 2020 – The budget the main focus of a 30-day session passed the House as the Legislature hit its halfway mark this week. The $7.6 billion spending package does not include the governor’s Opportunity Scholarship plan to make tuition at state colleges and universities free for all eligible New Mexicans, but it does include a lot of one-time spending on things like underfunded public pensions, road repairs, and a new Early Childhood Education Trust Fund. And Governor Lujan Grisham’s administration is still reworking the free college tuition program, hoping to bring it back. Gene Grant and The Line opinion panel discuss the budget’s progress so far, with less than two weeks before the close of the legislation session. (This segment is part of our #YourNMGov project, in collaboration with KUNM radio and the Santa Fe Reporter, and funded by the Thornburg Foundation and New Mexico Local News Fund)

Line Panelists:
Dan Foley, former state representative
Cathryn McGill, NM Black Leadership Council 
Dave Mulryan, founder, Everybody Votes 
Laura Sanchez-Rivét, attorney 

For Further Reading: 
House passes $7.6B budget bill on party-line voteAlbuquerque Journal
House passes spending plan Santa Fe New Mexican 

Transcript:

>>GRANT: THE STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES HAS PASSED A SEVEN-AND-A-HALF BILLION DOLLAR BUDGET FOR NEXT YEAR, WITH RAISES FOR STATE WORKERS AND TEACHERS. ABOUT 2,000 FOR TEACHERS MAKING THE STATE MINIMUM AND ALSO FEATURES 200 MILLION FOR THE NEW EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND CARE DEPARTMENT. IT IS MORE SPENDING BUT IS IT TOO MUCH, OR IS IT NOT ENOUGH? LET’S ASK THE LINE OPINION PANEL. FIRST UP WELCOME REGULAR AND ATTORNEY LAURA SANCHEZ-RIVET. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. ANOTHER LINE REGULAR, FORMER NEW MEXICO HOUSE MINORITY WHIP DANIEL FOLEY JOINS US. WE ALSO WELCOME LINE GUEST DAVE MULRYAN, FOUNDER OF EVERYBODY VOTES. AND CATHRYN MCGILL IS BACK. SHE’S FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF NEW MEXICO BLACK LEADERSHIP COUNCIL. CATHRYN, START WITH YOU. IS THERE A SIGNATURE PROGRAM OF FUNDING STRATEGY THAT YOU LIKE IN WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN SO FAR? WHAT GRABS YOU DURING THIS WHOLE SCRUM WE ARE HAVING HERE?

>>MCGILL: THE OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP AND, YOU KNOW, I THINK IT IS GREAT THAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT HIGHER EDUCATION. 45 MILLION-DOLLARS ISN’T GOING TO DO THE JOB AND FIRST DOLLAR, MIDDLE DOLLAR, LAST DOLLAR WHICH APPROACH WE TAKE, BUT WHAT I REALLY WANT US TO LOOK AT IS, IS ACCESS TO COLLEGE THE GOAL OR IS GRADUATING THE GOAL AND IS THIS MONEY GETTING US TO MORE PEOPLE GRADUATING. YOU LOOK AT STATISTICS AND RESEARCH, YOU TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT, YOU KNOW, MORE PEOPLE START TO ACCESS BUT IT DOESN’T NECESSARILY HAVE A GREAT IMPACT ON THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO COMPLETE COLLEGE. SO, I THINK ALL ALONG THE PIPELINE WE HAVE TO GO BACK AND LOOK AT FROM EARLY CHILDHOOD AND I AM GLAD WE ARE INVESTING MORE MONEY IN EARLY CHILDHOOD BUT ALL ALONG THE WAY WHAT IS OUR REAL GOAL AND ARE STUDENTS REACHING LITERACY AND IN WHAT WE DO. I HAVE A FRIEND WHO SAYS, IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM THAT CAN BE SOLVED BY MONEY, THEN YOU DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM. I SUGGEST THIS PARTICULAR PROBLEM CAN’T BE SOLVED JUST WITH MONEY.

>>GRANT: I LIKE THAT QUOTE, WHOEVER THAT FRIEND WAS.

>>MCGILL: ROBERT KLAUS, THANK YOU.

>>GRANT: DANIEL, THE IDEA COUNTER HERE A LITTLE BIT, IN MY SETUP, I ASKED IS IT ENOUGH OR TOO MUCH. A LITTLE BIT OF PUSH-BACK FROM REPUBLICANS ABOUT THIS WHOLE THING. I FIND IT INTERESTING THAT JASON HARBOR PROPOSED TO HAVE A 4.2% ANNUAL CAPITAL RATE ON SPENDING INCREASES WHICH IS VERY INTERESTING TO ME. I AM NOT SURE HOW MUCH CHANCE THAT HAS. WHAT IS YOUR SENSE OF HOW WE ARE APPROACHING THE MONEY WE HAVE AT HAND RIGHT NOW.

>>FOLEY: SO, LOOK WE HAVE NEVER HAD — I DON’T FEEL LIKE THIS STATE EVER HAD A REVENUE PROBLEM. WE HAVE A SPENDING PROBLEM AND WE HAVE HAD IT ACROSS ALL GOVERNORS, I HAVE SAID THIS BEFORE, GENE, WE GET IN TOUGH TIMES, CUT EVERYTHING 10%. TO ME I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY WE ARE FUNDING THE 90% THAT DOESN’T WORK. AND CUTTING THE 10% THAT DO WORK. THE REPUBLICANS HEARTBURN IN THE BUDGET IS NOT NECESSARILY SO MUCH THE GROWTH BECAUSE I CAN TELL YOU, ONCE PEOPLE GET UP THERE IT IS AMAZING HOW YOU CAN COME FROM A HOME THAT MAKES 50, $60,000 A YEAR AND IN JUST A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME A BILLION DOESN’T MEAN MUCH TO YOU. BUT, WHAT I THINK THE HEARTBURN IS IS THE RECURRING COSTS. PUTTING IN PROGRAMS, HEY, WE GOT THIS WINDFALL OF MONEY, SO WE ARE GOING TO CREATE EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAM, OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP, EXPAND MEDICAID. WE ARE GOING TO EXPAND ALL THESE DIFFERENT THINGS THAT WHEN THE MONEY DIPS, YOU STILL GOT TO PAY FOR THAT. SO, I THINK REPUBLICANS WOULD LIKE TO SAY, I THINK THEY WOULD SAY, YOU KNOW, AS WE DID WHEN I WAS THERE, WE ARE NOT OPPOSED TO INVESTING THAT MONEY BUT YOU CAN’T INVEST — YOU CAN’T TAKE YOUR ONE TIME BONUS AND BUY A NEW HOUSE AND SAY, NOW I CAN MAKE MY PAYMENT. YOU MIGHT WANT TO FIX THE HOUSE, YOU MAY PAY CASH FOR SOMETHING BUT TO ADD A MONTHLY PAYMENT IS A PROBLEM. THAT IS SOME OF THE HEARTBURN. IS IT TOO MUCH? WE SAT AROUND THE TABLE, WE KNOCKED HEADS FOR 15 YEARS ON THIS, RIGHT?  THERE IS NOT A PROBLEM YOU DON’T THINK MONEY CAN FIX. I DON’T THINK MONEY CAN FIX ANY PROBLEM. WE LOOK AT THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN NEW MEXICO. WE HAVE TONS OF ISSUES FACING EDUCATION IN NEW MEXICO. BUT, I CAN TELL YOU WHEN YOU COMPARE US NATIONALLY, FUNDING AIN’T ONE OF THEM. WE ARE IN THE UPPER THIRD EVERY YEAR OF THE PERCENTAGE OF BUDGET, AMOUNT OF MONEY GOING TO PUBLIC EDUCATION. THERE IS A HUGE GAP BETWEEN FUNDING IN SANTA FE AND CLASSROOMS. THE MORE YOU THROW INTO THAT GAP DOESN’T MEAN YOU FILL THE GAP. YOU’RE JUST BURNING THAT MONEY. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE BEFORE WE START TALKING ABOUT EXPANDING PROGRAMS, SPENDING MORE MONEY, WE SHOULD BE HITTING THE RESET BUTTON. WE HAVE THE TIME AND MONEY TO SAY, LET’S LOOK AT WHAT IS WORKING.  LET’S GROW THAT, GROW THINGS THAT ARE WORKING AND TAKE A STEP BACK, BECAUSE IN STATE GOVERNMENT, AS WE ALL KNOW, ONCE YOU CREATE SOMETHING, IT SEEMS TO NEVER GO AWAY. YOU CAN’T ROLL IT BACK.

>>GRANT: ON THAT POINT, CATHY BROUGHT UP THE OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP FUND THAT COMMITTEE HEARING TURNS OUT PEOPLE WANT TO KIND OF PULL BACK A LITTLE BIT AND PUT MORE MONEY INTO THINGS THAT ARE ALREADY IN PLACE. TO DAN’S POINT, IS THERE A MIDDLE GROUND ON THAT?  THE GOVERNOR REALLY WANTS TO HAVE THIS OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP FUND. IS IT GOING TO SURVIVE?

>>MULRYAN: WELL, I MEAN, AGAIN, MOLLY IVINS WAS CLEAR WHEN SHE ONCE WROTE GOVERNMENT IS LIKE A HAMMER. YOU CAN USE IT TO BUILD IT UP OR YOU CAN USE IT TO TEAR IT DOWN. AND MONEY CERTAINLY HELPS BUT WE NEED TO BE REAL. WE HAVE FACT. THERE IS A STATISTICS DEPARTMENT AT UNM THAT TRACKS THEIR DROP-OUT RATE WHICH IS 50%. EASTERN NEW MEXICO GRADUATES 17% OF THEIR KIDS. YOU KNOW, NEW MEXICO HIGHLANDS IS NOT MUCH BETTER. WE ARE LOOKING AT A RATE OF HALF. THAT IS ABSURD. YOU CAN THROW MONEY AT IT, WE ARE THROWING A LOT OF MONEY BUT YET MISSING LEADERSHIP. WE NEED A LOT OF PEOPLE IN A LOT OF POSITIONS TO SAY, IF WE LET YOU IN UNM, WE EXPECT YOU TO GRADUATE FROM UNM, WHATEVER THAT TAKES.  SMITH COLLEGE, IN MASSACHUSETTS, THEY ACTUALLY STARTED PAYING WOMEN WHO WERE IN POVERTY. THEY PAID THEIR RENT BECAUSE IT DIDN’T AFFECT HOW THEY COULD GET THEIR BENEFIT. WE NEED NEW THINKING AND LEADERSHIP. GOVERNOR SAYS I NEED A 90% GRADUATION RATE FROM UNM.  THAT HELPS A LOT AND THAT DOESN’T COST A LOT OF MONEY.  AND, YOU KNOW, IF YOU LOOK AT THE PRESIDENTIAL SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM, 450 KIDS PER CLASS, 1800 KIDS THAT GO. THEY HAVE A GRADUATION RATE OF 98.5% HIGHER THAN HARVARD.  THAT INSTITUTION, IF THEY DECIDE TO GRADUATE KIDS AT A GREAT RATE, WE SHOULD MAKE THAT AVAILABLE TO ALL THE KIDS. I KNOW THAT WE NEED TO SAY, GET INTO UNM, GET OF UNM, NO MATTER WHAT.

>>GRANT: MAKES CATHY’S POINT SHE MADE EARLIER. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FRONT END, IT IS ABOUT THE BACK END. THE RAISE FOR TEACHERS, SECOND YEAR IN A ROW. I DON’T KNOW THERE IS MUCH ARGUE ABOUT THAT.  IS THAT SOMETHING, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? IT IS A START AS THEY SAY TO GET THIS THING GOING, BUT WHAT IS MISSING HERE FROM THIS DISCUSSION THAT FOLKS HAVE NOT –

>>SANCHEZ-RIVET: WELL, I THINK THERE HAS BEEN SOME AGREEMENT. IT IS DOWN TO THE AMOUNT THAT WE INCREASE. A INCREASE 5% FOR TEACHERS, 4% FOR OTHER EDUCATION EMPLOYEES. THOSE OTHER EDUCATION EMPLOYEES RE CRITICAL TO THE CLASSROOM. IN MANY CASES WE ARE TALKING ABOUT EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANTS WHO HELP WITH SOME OF THE MOST VULNERABLE PEOPLE AT OUR SCHOOLS, SPECIAL EDUCATION, STUDENTS WITH LANGUAGE ISSUES, ADDITIONAL EMPLOYEES TO HELP TEACHERS. I THINK THAT IS A CRITICAL POPULATION FOR THEM TO FOCUS ON AS WELL. AND THEN, OF COURSE, THE 3% BUMP FOR STATE WORKERS WHICH IS IMPORTANT. WE END UP — I THINK IT IS REALLY DIFFICULT TO GET THIS ELEMENT DONE. I WORK A LOT ON ISSUES WITH PRC AND THAT IS CHRONICALLY UNDERFUNDED AND YOU END UP ATTRACTING FOLKS WHO AREN’T NECESSARILY GOING TO BE AT THE TOP OF THEIR GAME SOMETIMES OR NOT NECESSARILY INCLINED TO WORK AS HARD BECAUSE OF THE INCENTIVE. PEOPLE AT THE PRC WORK SUPER HARD BUT THEY ALSO COULD USE A HUGE INCREASE IN PAY. I DID SEE SOME INTERESTING PARTS IN THE BUDGET THAT THE HOUSE PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE. 76 MILLION TO SHORE UP PERA. THE PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM, IT NEEDS TO BE FIXED. IT IS BEYOND BROKEN. 250 MILLION FOR ROAD PROJECTS, INFRASTRUCTURE. AN INFUSION OF JOBS WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THAT. THAT IS IMPORTANT. THEN WHAT I FOUND INTERESTING THEY HAVE A TWO BILLION DOLLAR IN CASH RESERVES, WHICH REPRESENTS 26%. THAT IS HIGHER THAN NORMAL. THAT IS A HIGH CASH RESERVE.

 >>GRANT: LET ME ASK YOU ON THAT CASH RESERVE. THROW THIS OUT TO OTHERS AS WELL. WE HAVE TO HAVE A SIGNAL TO THE CREDIT SYSTEM OUT THERE AS WELL THAT WE ARE SOLID, WE’RE ON SOLID GROUND HERE. WE’RE NOT JUST SPENDING EVERYTHING WE HAVE COMING IN. IS THAT ENOUGH TO SEND THAT SIGNAL?

>>SANCHEZ-RIVET: THAT IS A HIGH NUMBER. THAT IS HIGHER THAN PAST YEARS. I THINK IT IS A GOOD RESERVE TO HAVE AT THIS POINT WHEN YOU HAVE EXTRA FUNDING, BUT THIS PARTICULAR BUDGET DOES REPRESENT ABOUT 529 MILLION MORE ABOVE CURRENT LEVEL. TO DAN’S POINT, IT IS CONCERNING, I THINK, WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHERE WE HAVE BEEN, 2016 WHEN WE HAD TO CUT SO MANY PROGRAMS AND CUT FUNDING SO MUCH, TO NOW EXPAND THAT MUCH, 7.5% ABOVE CURRENT LEVELS. THAT CREATES AN UNFUNDED MANDATE, RIGHT. YOU’RE CONTINUING TO GROW PROGRAMS AND I THINK AS DAN SAID, THERE IS SOME REASON FOR THAT.  I CAN’T BELIEVE WE ARE AGREEING BUT –

>>GRANT: GO TO CATHY ON THAT, THE IDEA THAT WE HAVE TO CATCH UP A LITTLE BIT. WE HEARD THIS AFTER THE JOHNSON ADMINISTRATION.  RICHARDSON PEOPLE SAID THAT. THAT IS WHY THEY SPENT.  YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN? MARTINEZ FOLKS AND NOW LUJAN-GRISHAM SAYS WE HAVE TO CATCH UP. THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE TO SPEND. WE KEEP DOING THIS CRAZY ROLLER COASTER.

>>MCGILL: DEFERRED MAINTENANCE. SOMETIMES YOU CATCH UP AND FIX THE HOUSE. I THINK THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE ATTEMPTING TO DO. AND, YOU KNOW, I WOULD SAY THAT WHAT DAN IS SAYING IS TRUE IS THAT WE DON’T WANT TO OVERREACH, OVERSPEND, BUT I THINK TO SOME OF THESE ISSUES ABOUT EDUCATION, FIXING THE PROBLEMS IN EDUCATION ARE REALLY IMPORTANT. THE QUESTION IS, ARE WE DOING IT THE RIGHT WAY, OR ARE WE CREATING AN EFFICIENT –

>>FOLEY: HIGHER EDUCATION. LOOK WHAT HIGHER EDUCATION DID WITH THE LOTTERY SCHOLARSHIP. THEY DRAINED IT. THE MINUTE THEY FOUND OUT THEY COULD RAISE TUITION AND FEES, AND THE LOTTERY SCHOLARSHIP PAYS FOR IT NOW WE COME UP WITH THE OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP. IF THEY DON’T THINK THROUGH ESPECIALLY THE THINGS THEY KNOW THAT ARE GOING TO HAPPEN, THE MINUTE YOU THROW THAT MONEY OUT THERE, IT IS LIKE BLOOD IN THE WATER, AND THE SHARKS COME OUT.

>>SANCHEZ-RIVET: WE HAVE TO BE COMPETITIVE WITH OTHER STATES. I THINK THAT HIGHER EDUCATION IS OFTEN AN EASY TARGET. THEY HAVE HIGHER SALARIES, THEY HAVE TO ATTRACT TALENT, THOUGH. YOU HAVE TO REMAIN COMPETITIVE WITH OTHER STATES OTHERWISE WE LOSE CREDIBILITY AND STUDENTS TO BETTER SCHOOLS.

>>GRANT: THE BUDGET INCLUDES A SMALL NUMBER ATTRACTED A LOT OF ATTENTION, $900,000 FOR THE NEW ETHICS COMMISSION. THAT IS 25% LESS THAN THE COMMISSION’S DIRECTOR SAID IT NEEDS TO BE ABLE TO MONITOR STATE GOVERNMENT. IN YOUR NEW MEXICO GOVERNMENT NEWS, CORRESPONDENT GWYNETH DOLAND WENT TO THE ROUNDHOUSE THIS WEEK TO SEE IF LAWMAKERS WERE HAMSTRINGING THE GROUP THAT IS SUPPOSED TO KEEP AN EYE ON THEIR BEHAVIOR. SHE ALSO FOUND A NEW EFFORT TO CHANGE THE WAY THE STATE DRAWS ITS LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS.

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