Tie vote leads to budget stalemate

SANTA FE (KRQE) – After a nearly four-hour debate, it was unclear which way the 70 state representatives set to vote would go.

When the dust settled, that big debate led to a big stalemate.

The $6.2 billion budget bill proposes a $280 million increase in spending from last year’s budget, with the largest chunk of that money going towards K-12 education.

But Republicans and Democrats have been tangled over how those education dollars should be spent.

Democrats have been pushing to spend more money “above the line,” funding that’s controlled by local school districts. Republicans on the other hand want more of that money spent “below the line” on the governor’s state-managed education reforms.

House Minority Leader Don Bratton, R-Hobbs, introduced a floor amendment that would’ve shifted $20 million more into those reforms including a total of $7.5 million to merit pay for principals and teachers. Democrats balked at that idea.

That amendment failed to pass on a 34-34 tie vote. Then the bill failed on a 34-34 vote, with Rep. Sandra Jeff, D-Crownpoint, joining all 33 Republican representatives to vote no.

That means the budget is effectively stalled in the House until both sides can reach an acceptable compromise. Both Bratton and House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, tell News 13 they expect to go back to the negotiating table over the weekend to work something out.

“The last $2 million or so is sometimes the hardest part,” Martinez said.

Even if the budget had passed out of the House, it seemed unlikely Gov. Susana Martinez would support it in its current form.

Democrats have been hampered by the health of two of their representatives this session. Rep. Phil Archuleta, D-Las Cruces, is out recovering from a major hip injury. Rep. Ernest Chavez, D-Albuquerque, is recovering from a reported spider bite.

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