Senate passes $9.57 billion budget amid accusations of backroom shenanigans

The state Senate passed a nearly $9.6 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year Sunday amid accusations the proposed budget was hijacked at the eleventh hour.

Discussion on the proposed budget, which would increase spending by almost 14%, or more than $1 billion, also came with a warning from the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee: The level of spending is unsustainable.

“New Mexico had better be prepared in our future for the plateauing of oil and gas, and that’s not too many years away,” said Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup.

“We’ve increased our recurring expenses to the tune of about 30% over the last three years, and that’s pretty much an unsustainable number,” he said.

The Senate voted 25-16 to approve House Bill 2, which heads back to the House for a concurrence vote. Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, joined all 15 Republican senators in voting against the proposed budget.

The vote on the floor came after the Senate Finance Committee, in a highly unusual move, pulled the spending plan back for reconsideration Sunday after voting to approve it the day before — a decision that angered Republican lawmakers and raised questions about backroom dealmaking and political pressure from the office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

“My staff and the [executive’s] staff have stayed late at night telling them, ‘No, we can’t have this, we can’t have that.’ But we try to get to middle ground, and that’s what this budget does, it gets us to middle ground,” Muñoz said durin