While the Christmas season has already passed, the legislative season is just getting under way and officials everywhere, including at Eastern New Mexico University, have filled out their wish lists.
Those officials’ version of Santa Claus — Gov. Bill Richardson and his many elves — have sifted through numerous requests for buildings, services and programs.
ENMU’s top boss, Steven Gamble, is hopeful the jolly old governor and the many lawmakers across the state will feel generous this year when passing out presents.
The university has numerous items on their wish list for the Legislative session, which starts today in Santa Fe.
ENMU’s top three priorities include:
The university is seeking an across the board 3 percent pay increase.
“On average, our salaries lag compared to other states,” Gamble said.
Gamble said the state currently tells universities what percentage tuition needs to increase each year.
“It’s that percentage that (the state takes) back,” he said.
Gamble and other university officials want the state’s cut of tuition to be lower to prevent the ballooning costs of higher education.
“We want it to be lower so we don’t have to jack up tuition,” Gamble said.
Full funding formula
Gamble said ENMU and officials at other institutions in New Mexico want the state to continue funding schools for every student they educate.
“We need the full funding formula to support basic activities,” Gamble said.
There is no adjustment expected in the full funding formula, but Gamble said it’s important for officials to make sure that doesn’t change.
Gamble is also especially interested in what happens with the general obligation bond that could go before voters in November.
Lawmakers during the session will say yes or no to it.
Passing the measure is important to ENMU because the No. 1 priority of the bond statewide is a $7 million project for a new science building in Portales.
“There will be labs and offices in the new building,” Gamble said. “The building is really old and it needs to be replaced. It’s really big for us.”
ENMU officials also will be watching what happens with the governor’s plans to cut about 15 percent of funding for a program that allows Texans who live within 135 miles of the state to pay New Mexico’s in-state tuition.
As would be expected, Gamble and other university officials hope the governor’s plan doesn’t get support.
Gamble said the plan is being considered because the state has to find ways to save money.
“We have shown them (Legislators) that Texans who come to school here spend more money here than it costs to educate them,” he said. “The state makes money out of the deal. We feel we are right in defending the wavier.”
Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said other schools have benefited from the program.
“That law was passed by me for Eastern,” he said. “I know that (New Mexico State University) has used that tremendously.”
If the measure does pass Gamble said ENMU will maintain the 135-mile program, at least in the immediate future.
“ENMU will eat the difference,” he said. “It’s absolutely important.”