SANTA FE — A special session of the state legislature will get underway today, where several University of New Mexico-related issues are set to be discussed.
Among them is the legislative budget, which is currently facing a $2 billion hole due to a drop in oil and gas prices as extraction in the Permian basin and travel have come to a virtual standstill.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed a plan on June 10 to offset the budget shortfall by using a mix of federal stimulus funding, spending cuts and cash reserves.
However, the Legislative Finance Committee proposed its own plan, which saw many differences.
In particular, the committee originally sought the revocation of the $17 million tuition-free college program that Lujan Grisham pushed for during the 2019 legislative session, which has been dubbed the Opportunity Scholarship.
The committee has since revised its target to allocate about $5 million for the scholarship, as reported by the Albuquerque Journal.
Matt Munoz, the associate director of the UNM Office of Government and Community Relations, confirmed that the special session will be the time where the legislature will decide how much money goes to UNM.
"A large portion of our academic budget comes from the state of New Mexico, so that is something we are watching closely," Munoz said.
He added that UNM is expecting its budget to be cut.
"It will be cut, I can say that with certainty — it's just the amount of the cut is unknown," Munoz said, adding that the budget will depend on how many reserve funds the state uses.
It's unclear if the Opportunity Scholarship will remain intact, be reduced or be cut entirely, according to Munoz.
"I can't really speculate on if it's going to be there or not,” Munoz said, adding that while the scholarship is great for students, the governor and legislature will have to work out what the scholarship will look like going forward, if indeed it continues to exist at all.
The Senate Finance Committee held a preliminary meeting on Wednesday at 1 p.m. that went over the current financial status of the state. The special session will take place in a Roundhouse closed to the public and lobbyists due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
Spencer Butler is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SpencerButler48