Monday, November 9, 2009

Richardson "sweeps" state funds, including for college scholarships

Gov. Bill Richardson's office said he today signed House Bill 3, "reluctantly agreeing to cut $68 million from the College Affordability Endowment Fund – a program the Governor created to provide need-based scholarships to New Mexicans." There is about $84 million in the fund.

"It pains me to pull this money from a program that has successfully increased opportunities for many New Mexicans to attend college," Richardson said in a statement. "Unfortunately, we all have to make sacrifices in order to balance the budget. We’re going to have to continue to make these kinds of sacrifices, especially when it comes to cutting capital outlay projects, when the Legislature meets again in January.”

The scholarships are based on financial need. Some 2,366 get the scholarships currently.

The “sweep” of nearly $110 million from various state funds and accounts will "help shore up the state’s main budget account. The bill targets money that is not being used. Most of that savings will come from the College Affordability Fund," a statement from Richardson's office said.

Richardson also used his veto pen, his office said, keeping about $6.5 million in funding from being swept.
A statement said he

"-- Saved $500,000 in funding for domestic violence programs
-- Saved $500,000 that was targeted from the State Auditor’s account. Without the money, the auditor would not have been able to conduct effective audits.
-- Saved $3 million that would have been cut from the E-911 Enhancement Fund in order to preserve $900,000 in federal funding for that project
-- Saved $800,000 for the Trail Safety Fund, which is funded by fees and designed to protect the safety of outdoorsman and other New Mexicans who use off-highway vehicles.
-- Saved $1.7 million for Pre-Kindergarten programs"

Richardson, who worked with the Legislature to create the College Affordability Fund in 2005, had fought this session to hold education harmless. Expect critics to now say he didn't do that.

The governor has until Thursday to act on the rest of the bills approved by the Legislature in the recent session.

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