Legislators: Session on schedule

By Sarah Meyer: Freedom New Mexico

Area legislators say the current session is on track to finish as scheduled.

The budget has moved from the House to the Senate and was being reviewed Saturday by the Finance Committee, said Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.

“It looks pretty decent,” he said. “There may be some changes.”

The budget should go to the Senate for consideration Tuesday or Wednesday, Ingle said.

“We have been working steadily all session on the different pieces that make up the final budget, looking at each request and trying to make sure that we spend the state’s funds as wisely as possible,” said Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs.

After the Senate votes on the budget, it will go back to the House.

The budget is “pretty much done,” said Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis. “All the available money is spent.”
However, the Senate has added amendments totaling several million to the $6 billion budget, and possibly $3.5 to $4 million is available, Harden said.
Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, said she expects the budget to come back to the House with changes.
“You can’t always make 112 children happy,” she said, referring to the total number of legislators.

“All of the finance bills, including the budget, the general obligation bond and the capital funding bills are moving and on target to be done right on time,” said Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton.

Gov. Bill Richardson’s health care plan isn’t moving as smoothly. Several different bills have been proposed.

A Senate version of the bill currently is under review by the Finance Committee, Ingle said.
“It’s changed quite a bit from the original proposal,” he said.

“The health care bills and school funding formula are getting amendments and changes on a daily basis, so it’s hard to know where we are headed with any of them yet,” said Moore.

“While all of us agree that we must find a way to make health care accessible and affordable, we may not be able to fully solve all parts of the puzzle during this session,” said Kernan.

One health care bill went to the Senate on Saturday, which would set up a task force to study “what we might be able to do,” said Harden.

Capital outlay requests were submitted Saturday.

Harden said “significantly less money is available than last year” for capital outlay.
Other issues still pending include the domestic partnership bill and ethics.

“Overall, I don’t think there has been as much partisan bickering as I’ve seen in prior years, and although we disagree on a number of issues, the process hasn’t been as painful,” Moore said.