State budget still at a stalemate

SANTA FE (KRQE) – With just eight days left in the legislative session, there is no sign of a break in the stalemate over the budget.

On Wednesday, the House moved the $6.2 billion bill back into committee while negotiations continue.

“If you look at where we’re at in regard to just dollars and cents, we’re not that far apart. But if you look at where we’re at with regard to policy, we’re pretty far apart,” said Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Albuquerque.

The difference between the two sides is over about $20 million in education spending.

Democrats want that money to be controlled and spent by school districts while Republicans want to invest it in the governor’s state-managed education reforms.

Last Friday, the House brought the budget to a vote, but it failed to pass on a 34-34 tie when Rep. Sandra Jeff, D-Crownpoint, joined Republicans.

“It’s not even good enough for all of the Democrats,” said Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque. “We’re against spending money in education on programs we know don’t work.”

While the House stalemate continues, Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, says he can’t wait any longer to start the Senate’s budget work. He’ll start moving a Senate version of the budget forward in his committee tomorrow.

“We’re dangerously close to running out of time,” Smith said in a phone interview.

The session ends at noon next Thursday. If lawmakers can’t cut a deal, they’ll have to come back for a special session.

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