Education committees hear budget proposals, including potential teacher pay raise

There is only a $400,000 difference between what the governor’s office and the Legislature’s budget arm are requesting for the main category of public school funding (that’s the State Equalization Guarantee, or SEG funding, for you education wonks), but there are some interesting departures in the details. 

If you are a teacher, you are going to be really interested in those differences. Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski and analysts from the Legislative Finance Committee and the Public Education Department came before a joint meeting of the Senate and House Education committees on Friday to detail their budget proposals for fiscal 2019. For teachers just starting out or who just reached a new teacher level, there could be a $2,000 salary bump in your future if the LFC gets its way, plus a 1.5 percent cost of living salary increase. If the PED plan prevails in negotiations, all teachers will receive a 2 percent across the board salary increase, with other school personnel receiving a 1 percent cost of living increase. Then, exemplary teachers would be up for a one-time $5,000 bonus and exemplary high school math or science teachers would be eligible for up to $10,000.

Will independent ethics oversight catch on in 2017?

New Mexico’s lawmakers over the last decade have balked at creating an independent ethics commission even as a parade of elected and appointed public officials stood accused of corruption and, in some cases, were convicted of crimes. Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico and a perennial supporter of ethics legislation, reached back to 1990s American cinema for an analogy: Groundhog Day, a 1990s comedy classic in which the main character is forced to repeat the same day over and over again. “We are freakin’ Bill Murray,” Harrison said. Harrison hopes 2017 will break the cycle, however, and on the surface the odds in Santa Fe appear favorable. New Mexico’s lawmakers convene for the 2017 60-day legislative session with two supporters of the ethics legislation — Sen. Peter Wirth and Rep. Brian Egolf – in powerful leadership posts.

What New Mexico’s state Legislature looks like

The average lawmaker in America is a “white, male, Protestant baby boomer with a graduate degree and a business background,” according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures. In short, the establishment looks a lot like it always has. And the status quo is extremely difficult to change. Incumbency is the one thing that most certainly determines whether a legislative candidate will win. An incumbent who is good at raising money won 94 percent of the time, according to a national analysis of 2013-2014 legislative races conducted by The National Institute on Money in State Politics.

Leadership shift sparks hope for supporters of campaign finance reform

New Mexico’s campaign finance system needs a major retooling. This is not a new revelation. For years the Secretary of State’s office and supporters of reform have said as much. Some of the law’s provisions are unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable. Inconsistencies and loopholes in the act make following the trail of money in politics difficult. And the law fails to acknowledge the recent rise of money flowing into campaigns from independent groups.