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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gov. signs bills for lottery, teachers and water

news@dailylobo.com

The deadline for Gov. Susana Martinez to sign and veto bills that passed during this year’s legislative session has come and gone, and the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship will remain funded for the next two years.

On Wednesday, Martinez signed into law Senate Bill 347, which would provide money from the general fund to power the scholarship for fiscal year 2015, and funds from the state liquor excise tax to be used for the following fiscal year.

“I’m pleased that a bipartisan solution was reached to protect the lottery scholarship for students currently in their spring semesters, and I believe we’ve begun the process of instituting reforms to the scholarship to ensure that students will be able to receive significant tuition assistance for years to come,” Martinez said in a statement from the Governor’s Office

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Martinez used line-item vetoes to strike four wrongly defined terms from the bill, which, if passed, would have resulted in freshman being ineligible for the scholarship.

With Martinez’s signature, the credit-hour requirement of the scholarship is now raised from 12 to 15 credit hours for students at four-year institutions. However, the scholarship’s GPA requirement remains at 2.5.

All higher education students will now receive awards, but the provision introduced by Rep. Jason Harper, R-Albuquerque, which would pro-rate award amounts for all students in the event of a funding shortage, and could result in partial awards, remains in effect.

State Budget

Martinez also signed the state budget into law, but not until after removing $27 million in items from it.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, one of the proposed items cut from the state’s budget was $2.4 million which would have provided for both 8 percent pay raises for judges and district attorneys and 3 percent pay raises for appointed government employees.

However, the governor did keep a line item that provided for 3 percent pay raises for all other state employees, including for public school teachers.

“I’m proud that our budget invests targeted dollars where we need it the most — to support our teachers, help struggling students, improve parental engagement and lift up low-performing schools,” the governor said in a statement from her office.

The largest amount vetoed was $15 million in funding for programs working with at-risk children. Martinez said in a statement that she vetoed that provision since the funding wouldn’t be needed until next year, when the programs would enter into effect.

Capital Outlay

UNM’s main campus will receive a 3.1 percent increase in capital outlay funding for fiscal year 2015 as part of the $6.15 billion package Martinez signed into law on Tuesday, according to UNM Today. That amount includes 1.5 percent pay increases for higher education employees, which comprise 62 percent of UNM’s workforce.

Also included is a 1.1 percent increase in funding for the Health Sciences Center.

Statewide, that same capital outlay bill also includes $89 million in funding for water infrastructure projects. According to the bill, these projects include funding for repairing watersheds, fixing dams, water purification projects and creating backup water supplies for communities at risk of losing access to primary water supplies.

“When we invest in our water infrastructure, we invest in New Mexico’s economic future,” Martinez said in a press release from the Governor’s Office. “And that’s an investment worth fighting for.”