Senate approves $10.22 billion budget for FY '25

Feb. 12—A $10.22 billion spending plan that seeks to turn today's record revenues into "future money" cleared the Senate 31-10 Wednesday.

"Hold your head up high," Sen. George Muñoz, a Gallup Democrat who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said at the conclusion of the 1 1/2 -hour discussion and debate on the proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

"You may not like everything that's happening here, but New Mexico, you are not a poor state," he said. "Quit telling other people you're a poor state."

The spending plan for fiscal year 2025 invests large amounts of so-called new money, or expected revenue increases in the next fiscal year, into funds that will spin off a percentage of their earnings down the road.

The Conservation Legacy Permanent Fund, for example, would receive a $300 million appropriation under the proposed budget.

"That'll spin off 5% a year, which will mean somewhere in the range of $20, $21 million a year for all the specific programs that are part of that fund," said Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.

Wirth called it a "terrific way" to fund forest and watershed restoration, outdoor recreation and soil and water conservation districts, among other initiatives, with a "steady recurring stream of money" without building new recurring appropriation into the budget.

"If we didn't do that, we would be at tremendous risk down the road of creating a whole string of recurring appropriations that we would then be pulling back, so that is just a huge step forward," he said.

One Democrat — Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque — joined nine Republicans in voting against the proposed budget.

Tallman offered his colleagues a "Top 10" list of reasons he planned to vote against the budget, including no appropriation for the construction of a multipurpose arena in downtown Albuquerque and that only $5 million was set aside for food banks. He also criticized the short amount of time he had to review the budget.

"I've had the budget for less than 24 hours," he said. "I don't really feel that I can make an intelligent decision or whether it's adequate or not. We spent more time on this floor debating guns than we do the budget. I know more about guns than I do the budget."

The spending plan heads back to the House for a concurrence vote, or to approve about $800 million in changes made by the Senate Finance Committee.

"The House thought they sent over the most perfect budget," Muñoz said in an interview after the vote. "Well, it was short for veterans. It was short for child literacy. It was short for school meals. The list just goes on and on."

The Senate took a break after voting on the budget bill and is scheduled to consider a tax package next.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.