Gov. Susana Martinez ordered a hiring freeze for most state agencies last Thursday amid continuing budgetary concerns. A two-page memo was sent to cabinet secretaries of agencies under her control directing them to halt all recruiting and cancel plans to fill new positions. Any jobs where an applicant is already in the process of being hired are exempt, as are certain jobs in Public Safety, Human Services, the Children, Youth and Families agency and those related to revenue collections. Martinez says a solvency package adopted by the Legislature earlier this year and estimated at $190 million value won't be enough to see the state through June 30, the end of the budget year. The Democratic Party of New Mexico criticized the freeze, citing problems with understaffing in state agencies that have already manifested. The memo was delivered on the heels of the legislative session, which resulted in a budget plan designed by the Legislature that relies on a tax increase—a solution the governor has repeatedly spoken out against.
UNM Center Expansion Underway
The University of New Mexico has officially selected a design team to expand and renovate the Johnson Center. The $35 million project will be the first major upgrade to the 60-year-old recreation facility since 2000. UNM announced last week that Albuquerque-based FBT Architects and Hastings + Chivetta Architects, of St. Louis, Mo., will be designing the expansion. The project will extend the southern portion of the facility by another 60,000 square feet, double the space for cardio and weight training, and include many of the amenities suggested by the student body. That might include an indoor track, a rock climbing wall and a multi-activity court that could used for indoor soccer, field hockey or a number of other sports. Construction should begin next year, and school officials hope to see the project finished by the end of 2019.
Trump Administration Passes On Skandera
Politico reported Thursday that the Trump administration, which was reportedly planning to nominate New Mexico Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera for assistant secretary in the US Department of Education, reversed its decision due to opposition from Republican lawmakers. According to the report, Skandera's support for national Common Core education standards—a system that measures proficiency in mathematics and language arts—was at the center of the decision to pass her over for the position. The GOP has opposed Common Core standards in recent years, following Tea Party assertions that they constitute federal overreach. The Politico report claims that nearly a dozen Republican senators were opposed to Skandera's appointment. Skandera has not confirmed or denied that she sought a post in the Trump administration. She has also declined to comment directly concerning the report.