The battle between the New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez over state funds continued last week when the governor announced she will be adding tax reform to the agenda of the upcoming special session as well as the approval of a spending plan. Last month, Martinez told the Legislature that she would be scheduling a special session before the fiscal year ends on June 30 to renegotiate their proposed $6.1 billion budget, which called for a $350 million tax increase to balance oil revenue losses suffered by the state. Martinez subsequently line-item vetoed much of the plan, prompting the Legislature to file a lawsuit against her, claiming the vetoes were unconstitutional. Last Thursday, in a speech given by the governor at the annual conference of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute at the Sandia Resort & Casino in Albuquerque, she told onlookers that an overhaul of the state’s gross receipts tax laws was being added to the special session's agenda. She said she wants to see the elimination of many gross receipts tax exemptions, credits and deductions in state statutes. The governor has yet to set a date for the special session, which is expected to cost $50,000 per day.
APS Reverses Sports Cuts
Following criticism of their decision to cut the sports programs of the district's middle schools, Albuquerque Public Schools announced last week that although middle school sports will “look a little different” next year, the district is working with school officials and community partners on a plan that will keep competitive sports programs in place for another year. School officials warned that budgetary constraints would remain, however, affecting equipment, uniforms, schedules and supplies. The shortfalls also mean the district will be looking for other sources of revenue, including possibly charging admission for middle school competitions, looking for event sponsors and working with community partners. Last month, APS administrators proposed removing intramural sports completely due to a $26 million budget shortfall. Gov. Martinez' office criticized the proposal, saying the district has tens of millions of dollars in savings and that the proposed policy change was politically driven. The New Mexico Public Education Department also disapproved of the proposed cuts, and released a statement that criticized APS spending, claiming that the district spends $1.6 million on lobbyists and publicists each year. Some of the APS board members had also spoken out against the plan, including Peggy Muller-Aragón, who told the Albuquerque Journal that there were many other areas where cuts could be made that wouldn't negatively affect students, like cellphone bills or attorney fees. APS is projecting a 2 percent cut for K-12 education during the upcoming special session. Its operating budget is $698 million. The APS board will be voting on the final budget on May 22. PED will review the plan in early June.