House okays Senate changes to budget, film incentives; rejects retirement contribution changes

Mar 17, 2011

Santa Fe, NM – The state House of Representatives has voted to concur with Senate changes to two key elements of the 2012 state budget, but has defeated a third. The House, just before midnight Wednesday night, voted narrowly (36 to 32) to approve the Senate version of the overall budget that cuts spending by 2.7 percent. The budget cuts education by $61 million, about 2.5% percent, and government agency programs by another $90 million.

The House also voted in favor of changes made in the Senate to a bill capping film industry incentives at $50 million per year. That vote was much broader, at 51 to 17. The Senate version of the measure also put a three-year tier system on the incentives. Under that system, smaller expense claims made by film companies could be paid within a year, while larger claims could take two to three years to be paid by the state.

The House declined to concur with Senate changes to a measure adding 1.75% to the amount state workers contribute to the state retirement fund. State workers were required, two years ago, to add 1.5% in contributions. Among other things, Hobbs Republican Represenative Donald Bratton, who sponsored the original measure, said he was concerned that the Senate hadn't made the original 1.5% swap permanent. Bratton recommended the House vote against concurrence on the bill, and the chamber followed his recommendation on a 30 to 38 vote.

It's not clear what the Senate will do in response.

After the vote, Santa Fe Democratic Representative Luciano "Lucky" Varela said, "if the Senate doesn't recede from its amendments, the governor's gonna have to cut 100 million dollars out of the budget."

The state legislative session ends on Saturday, March 19th, at noon.