SANTA FE — New Mexico legislators are sending a $5.88 billion budget to Gov. Susana Martinez.
Members of the House of Representatives concurred with changes that the Senate made earlier in the week. The House vote was 37-33, and nearly all the opposition was from Republicans who said Martinez would veto the bill because of one change.
The Senate stripped away money for teacher merit pay, a program the Republican governor wanted. Instead, senators added money for teachers at highly rated schools to be paid a bit more if they go to those schools with D and F grades.
During floor debate, Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said Martinez would veto the bill over that issue. A veto would necessitate a special legislative session and greater expense to the taxpayers, Gentry said.
Rep. Rick Miera, D-Albuquerque, said the budget covered more than 200 pages but Republicans were fixated on the small section that dealt with merit pay for teachers.
Miera urged House members to concur with the Senate changes and send the budget to Martinez. Senators approved the budget 42-0.
Perhaps the sharpest criticism of House Republicans came from Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque.
She said they had no evidence that merit pay for teachers would improve students’ performance. The idea of putting strong teachers in low-performing schools to help students attain proficiency was a good one, Stapleton said in arguing for concurrence with the Senate.

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Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at msimonich@tnmnp.com or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com