Budget a top priority for Legislative session

SANTA FE (KRQE) – Tuesday is the start of the Legislative session and while the budget is the top priority for lawmakers, there are a lot of other controversial topics they’ll tackle over the next 30-days.

Lawmakers are looking toward of a couple issues that could very well push voters to the polls during the November election.

“We hope to be focusing in on creating a diverse competitive economy, creating jobs and reforming our public education system,” said Jon Barela, secretary of economic development.

Democratic lawmakers have their own ideas.

House Speaker Ken Martinez says one focus is hiking the state’s minimum wage possibly through a constitutional amendment which would go to voters in November.

“I think minimum wage could be a good one, especially if you had some kind of constitutional indexing included in there, kind of a cost of living increase,” said Rep. Ken Martinez.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez says his eyes this session will be on funding early childhood education programs. Sanchez says he supports a proposal that would divert money from the state’s long-term savings into those programs through another constitutional amendment.

“We think it would be in the best interest in the children of New Mexico and all people of the state of New Mexico, actually,” said Sanchez.

Barela says Democrats aren’t approaching this issue the right way.

“We think it’s a bad idea to raid our kids savings account. We can do this through the Legislative process,” he said.

As for a minimum wage hike, Barela says the governor is sensitive to that and has proposed a minimum wage increase that is in line with competing states in the region.

There are two other constitutional amendments that should get a lot of attention over the next month. A Democratic senator has pitched legalizing marijuana in New Mexico and a Republican senator wants voters to define marriage between a man and a woman.

Two of the governor’s big battles are expected to come up again. The governor wants lawmakers to spend money on state-led education reforms, but Democrats would rather give that money directly to school districts.

The governor has also said she’ll push once more to stop the state from issuing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.

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