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Salary hikes get last-minute reprieve

Legislators recommend a 5 percent tuition increase

Despite the rosiest of forecasts, UNM’s top priority of staff and salary compensation was in danger of dying during the final weekend of this year’s legislative session.

Gov. Gary Johnson signed a more-than $3.8 billion budget package into law Friday, ensuring that public schools and state agencies will have money to operate in the fiscal year starting July 1, but he vetoed $95 million in next year’s spending proposed by lawmakers.

A proposed 7 percent salary increase for faculty and 6.5 percent increase for staff were among the items Johnson slashed from the budget, but legislators worked well into the evening Friday and sent a $55 million bill that included the salary increases before Saturday’s noon deadline.

Johnson said Saturday that he probably would sign a measure that restored $55 million of the cuts. The money will cover salary increases for judges, faculty and staff at colleges and universities and other state workers.

Friday UNM administrators urged faculty and staff to contact their legislators and the governor to emphasize the importance of the salary increase plan.

“We are gravely concerned that compensation increases for higher education have been vetoed out of the General Appropriation Act,” administrators wrote in a statement posted on the UNM Web site. “Compensation has been the highest priority for all public post-secondary institutions for the past three years and is our absolute highest priority this year.”

The statement emphasized the University’s economic impact on the state, adding that, “If a compensation increase for higher education is not funded, the negative impact on our institutions and the state will be significant now and for the long-term.”

The University asked to raise both faculty and staff salaries at 7 percent to bring them in line with their peers — faculty to their counterparts at other institutions and staff to those with comparable jobs in Albuquerque.

The state budget bill that Johnson signed into law Friday included one of the two formula fixes that were proposed by UNM and all other state colleges and universities. The fix that passed changes how the state calculates the amount universities need to fund salary increases and includes student support jobs, which range from UNM’s president to payroll staff.

The formula fix that failed would have adjusted the way the state calculates the cost of educating students, which has not been updated in 10 years.

The Legislature also recommended a 5 percent UNM tuition credit or increase, which generally translates to one slightly below 6 percent because the tuition formula has not been adjusted. The Board of Regents sets tuition annually and may raise it more than the Legislature’s recommendation to offset any funding UNM did not receive from the state.

A variety of other UNM-related items were approved by Johnson with the rest of the state budget that ranged from funding a Women’s Career Development Program to expansion of the College of Nursing to address the state’s nursing shortage.

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