2024 NM Legislative Update: Senate Passes Budget With 31-10 Bipartisan Vote; Goes Back To House For Concurrence; Always “Saving For Rainy Day” While Simply Ignoring Present Day Demands; Session Ends February 15 At Noon

On January 31, halfway through the session, the New Mexico House of Representatives voted 53-16 to send its nearly $10.2 billion 2024-2025 budget spending plan to the New Mexico Senate for approval and further amendments.

On February 11, the Senate Finance Committee approved House Bill 2 which is the $10.22 billion state budget enacted by the House passing the measure on a 9-0 vote with two committee members absent. It was then sent to the full Senate for final approval.  Among the items included in the budget approved by the Finance Committee is the allocation of $220 million from the general fund for road maintenance and beautification. Along with Senate Bill 300, which would add about $527 million, to the total of new money for the two items could be $747.8 million, which would be a record high.  Other items the amended House Bill 2 include:

  • Increase the amount seniors and disabled veterans can receive per month in SNAP benefits from $25 to $100.
  • Contribute about $25 million that would go toward police and corrections recruitment and retention, $20 million for state and local volunteer fire department recruitments and $11 million for emergency medical services.
  • Impact school meals, adding $20 million and making it a recurring expense

On February 12, the full New Mexico Senate passed House Bill  2 on a  31-10 bi-partisan vote. House Bill  2 creates a $10.18 billion 2024-2025 Fiscal Year state budget. It is a 6.5% increase in recurring funds from last year’s  2023-2024 fiscal year.  Senate amendments added $31.6 million to the House version of the budget that passed. Including the “feed bill”, an administrative measure to fund the Legislature, the drafted budget sits at just more than $10.22 billion. That’s nearly 7%, or $653 million more, than fiscal year 2024.

The bill contains 30% to be held in reserves for future possible deficits for when there is an expected downturn in oil and gas revenues which funds 40% of the state budget.  Some Senators argued that the state should have used some of the extra funds for projects now instead of placing them in reserves to cushion for future possible deficits.


The proposed spending plan receive bi partisan support  from Democrats and Republicans, even from those who have not voted for proposed budgets multiple times in the past. Many senators said there are protections in the latest budget, such as those affecting trust funds and reserves, which will help protect New Mexico when the currently booming oil and gas industry faces a downturn. Oil and gas dollars fund a significant portion of the state’s general fund.

Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said he felt more could have been spent on current needs and objected that the budget takes money from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant. Ortiz y Pino said this:

“If we spent a little more investing in now, we might not have so many needs in the future. … On the other hand, this is where we’ve got to budget before us, it’s the expense of a lot of things that I think are valuable. … We could have used that TANF Block Grant money, which is 100%  federal money coming to the state for candidate recipients which could have used that, to expand the benefits and make life a little more bearable for the poorest among us.”

Sen. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo, said that he would rather that some of the budget be saved rather than spent.

“I think this is a good budget and I think we should pass this budget,” Burt said. “I’m gonna vote for this budget. I haven’t for the last four or five years, and it has some problems, but I’m gonna vote for it… But until we also get serious about  down the road, we’ve got to look further than the next few years.”

Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, said this:

“I think what you have is a budget that’s workable. Could be better and we can argue that until the cows come home, but we got a budget that’s workable.”


The largest slice of the general fund would go to public schools, which are slated to receive about $4.3 billion next fiscal year. That includes more than $94 million to give a flat 3% raise to all public school employees, an amount that was trimmed by a Senate Finance Committee. Before public school employees were looking at a total average of 4% raises.  The version the budget approved by the  Senate includes $30 million for summer reading intervention programs, $14 million for early literacy and reading support and $5 million to train secondary educators in the science of reading.


Public Safety also receive a significant increase in overall funding. State police officers would get a raise under the spending plan, becoming the highest-paid law enforcement agency in the state. Exact raises for individuals vary depending on their experience and position. The Senate Finance Committee amended the budget to include $25 million for recruitment of local law enforcement and correctional agencies.


Upon passage by the Senate, Democratic leadership issued the following statement on the budget:

“This budget transfers over a billion dollars from the general fund to a series of endowments and expendable trusts to support future spending on things like housing, conservation, water, and workforce development. If you include the higher education trust fund currently working its way through the process, then the legislature is ensuring that over $2 billion of the $3.47 billion in new money is secured to address future liabilities of the state. With additional legislation being worked on, we’re also looking at never having to bond capital ever again. We are truly securing our fiscal future for generations to come.” 

Senators boasted of the trust funds included in their approved budget saying the trust funds are way to safeguard dollars when oil and gas aren’t bringing in booming revenues for the state. The budget would send $1.3 billion from the general fund to endowments and expendable trusts. General fund reserves are  32% of recurring appropriations.

Not all lawmakers agreed with setting aside so much money for the future in trust funds.  During floor debate, Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, asked if lawmakers are so afraid for the future that they’re putting aside dollars for then and not today. He questioned how many children in New Mexico are in unsafe and unhealthy positions, and how many state agencies, such as the Supreme Court and the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission,  are underfunded. Soules said this:

We have billions in savings and investments. But we have needs now.”

Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque said there may be fewer future needs if lawmakers invest more dollars today rather than saving so much. He said more investment in housing is needed as well as into the CYFD or early childhood education.

Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, said the state is fully funded to keep going the free breakfast and lunch program the Legislature passed last year. He said he remembers when lawmakers had to take money away from school districts that were doing well in the past because of budget limitations. He said he hopes lawmakers won’t have to ever do that again.

Senator Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, said more discussion is needed on how the state can become more independent from oil and gas revenues. Tallman said this:

“I really don’t know what we’re going to be doing to diversify our economy, which is one of the most important issues we should be dealing with at the moment.”

Sen. William Burt, R-Alamogordo, agreed that booming oil and gas revenue won’t always be available to the state. He said lawmakers need to look at some of the less exciting factors of the budget, like retirement, to preserve the long-term future of New Mexico. Burt  said this: .

“We’ll never be able to cover everybody’s bases completely. …  We do absolutely the best we possibly can.”


Other  budget highlights include the following major appropriations:

  • $1.2 billion for natural resources, housing and innovation
  • $24 million to judicial branch agencies
  • $7 million to support victim advocates, sexual assault victims and supplement federal grants for crime victims
  • $11.7 million for the New Mexico Department of Health
  • $1.96 billion to the Health Care Authority Department and $180 million for Medicaid
  • $3 million for tribal health councils
  • $19.6 million to expand Pre-K
  • $4.43 billion in recurring funds for public schools
  • $50 million to the tribal Educational Trust Fund
  • $20 million to pilot and evaluate evidence-based strategies to improve the Children, Youth and Families Department
  • The Higher Education Department will receive $1.3 billion in recurring funds
  • $100 million to develop a strong workforce
  • $10 billion to establish a new Green Bank
  • $300 million in the Lands of  Enchantment Legacy Fund for water conservation, outdoor recreation, agriculture, and wildlife protection
  • $150 million to the Department of Transportation for major infrastructure, maintenance and road improvements

The link to the quoted news source are here:





The Senate approved $2 billion of the $3.47 billion in new money  be placed in reserve funds and trust funds, representing a whopping  58% of the surplus funds. It’s very disappointing that the New Mexico State Senate is reluctant to take bold an aggressive action to address the state’s present and urgent needs and is  always “saving for a rainy day” while simply ignoring present day demands.   Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, said it best when he asked if lawmakers are so afraid for the future that they’re putting aside dollars for then and not today. He questioned how many children in New Mexico are in unsafe and unhealthy positions, and how many state agencies, such as the Supreme Court and the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, are underfunded. Soules said this:

“We have billions in savings and investments. But we have needs now.”

The 2024 New Mexico legislative ends on February 15 at noon. Talk about cutting it close. Two and a half days is not much time for the House to approve the budget as amended by the Senate.   It now goes back to the House to deal with changes made on the Senate side before it can be sent to the governor for line-item veto’s, if any, and signing it into law.


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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.