Larrañaga: Proposed House budget is responsible

Rep. Larry Larrañaga
New Mexico Rep. Larry Larrañaga, District 27

The recent drop in oil prices has put a strain on state budgets across the Western United States. While other states are implementing massive budget cuts or considering tax increases to meet their obligations, the House Appropriations and Finance Committee has developed a responsible budget that meets the state’s critical needs without raising taxes or draining our state’s reserves.

Our primary duty as legislators is to support a safe environment for New Mexicans to live, work and raise their families. Everyone knows that we need to reduce New Mexico’s alarmingly high violent crime rate. We can help reduce violence by supporting the men and women who patrol our streets and guard our correctional facilities. The House budget does this by providing more funding for the recruitment and retention of law enforcement personnel in the state’s budget. The bill our committee crafted provides an additional $5.1 million for the Department of Public Safety and $12.1 million to the Department of Corrections. These increases will allow the departments to give our state law enforcement officers a competitive salary and recruit new officers. The budget includes funding for the Department of Public Safety to process New Mexico’s backlog of untested rape kits and to develop a centralized criminal record database as well.

The House budget also provides a funding increase for the Children, Youth and Families Department. The $6.1 million authorized by the bill will support the department’s protective services program and enable it to hire more social workers to help protect the safety and well-being of New Mexico’s children.

Our budget addresses key educational needs as well. We added $31 million overall for the state’s education programs, with $2 million earmarked for critical K-3 Plus, pre-K and early reading programs. In addition, the House budget continues to increase support for early childhood initiatives by adding $7.3 million for these important programs, including $3 million for prekindergarten.

Incentives to stimulate economic growth were included, too. We’re continuing our support for established programs like the Job Training Incentive Program, and at New Mexico Gov.Susana Martinez’s request, we added $1.25 million for the creation of a rapid workforce development program. These economic development initiatives will help give New Mexicans the skills they need to compete for 21st Century jobs.

The House Appropriations and Finance Committee has made every effort to ensure essential public services are addressed despite the limited funding available this year. We worked hard to make sure that we could fund state operations without imposing drastic cuts. This budget strengthens programs to keep New Mexico families safe, provide our kids with a solid educational foundation, and grow our economy.

Rep. Larry Larrañaga represents New Mexico House District 27 and is chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee