State House kills education funding increase, approves low-income elderly property tax cuts

Mar 10, 2011

Santa Fe, NM – Two budget-related measures saw razor-thin votes with different outcomes in the state House of Representatives Thursday. The first would have allowed voters to decide next year whether to keep education funding at its current 5-point-8 percent distribution from the state's Permanent Fund. Under current law, the distribution amount is set to automatically decrease by 745 million dollars over the next ten years. The measure's sponsor, Santa Fe Democratic Representative Jim Trujillo, said the Permanent Fund is supposed to be used for education, not as a savings account.

"We are not funding education adequately," Trujillo argued. "I don't care what you say, we're not putting enough money on it. And then we're expecting them to solve our society problems and to educate our kids."

But the measure failed on a tie vote, 35 to 35, with Dona Irwin of Deming and Rhonda King of Stanley the lone Democrats joining Republicans against it.

Next, South Valley Democrat Miguel Garcia argued for his measure to reduce property taxes for low-income elderly New Mexicans. Some Republicans argued the two-and-a-half to five million dollar reduction in taxes would be too expensive for the state. Garcia said the money would go largely to widows over 75 years old.

"These are women that tended to a traditional household," Garcia said, "that gave up opportunities to expand their skills, and instead stayed home and took care of Juanito and Juanita."

The measure narrowly passed, 36 to 33, mostly along party lines with Democrats supporting. Irwin was the lone Democrat joining Republicans in opposition. Voters will now have a chance to decide the issue on next year's ballot.