SANTA FE – The omnibus spending bill unveiled in Congress early Tuesday includes language that would authorize New Mexico’s plan to tap more heavily into its permanent school fund – a breakthrough for supporters of the voter-approved measure.
The Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation celebrated the inclusion of the language Tuesday, and they said the legislation could be voted on by the end of the week.
Approval of the measure this year has faced deadline pressure, with Congress set to leave Washington and begin a new session Jan. 3.
New Mexico voters last month overwhelmingly approved the education measure, which would increase the annual distributions out of the state’s permanent school fund from 5% to 6.25%.
The extra funding is expected to generate about $236 million in the next fiscal year for early childhood education and public schools.
But congressional approval is required before the full distribution can take effect.
With time running out, the Democratic members of the state’s delegation sought to add the authorizing language into an omnibus spending bill up for consideration this week.
The consent of Congress to the New Mexico education measure is now included on page 2,980 of the 4,155-page spending bill.
“This effort to provide a long-term, stable funding stream for quality early childhood education is years in the making – backed overwhelmingly by New Mexico voters, the state legislature, and an incredible coalition of advocates,” U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján and Congresswomen Melanie Stansbury and Teresa Leger Fernández, all Democrats, said in a joint statement. “Investing in our children at the level they have long deserved will help change the trajectory of our state.”
The Journal wasn’t able to reach the lone Republican in New Mexico’s delegation, Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, for comment.
As a state legislator, she voted against similar legislation in 2018.
Republican lawmakers who opposed the measure at the Roundhouse said policymakers had already ramped up education spending without turning more heavily to the permanent fund. And withdrawing more money out of the fund now, they said, would slow its growth and eventually leave the state with less education revenue.
Supporters, by contrast, said the extra funding would allow New Mexico to expand prekindergarten and other programs that produce long-lasting academic gains.
The measure won approval from 70% of the state’s voters.
Herrell is set to leave Congress after losing her reelection bid in a newly drawn district.