John Arthur Smith: “They Don’t Have The Votes”
By Matt Grubs, NMiF Producer
Senator John Arthur Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, says he doesn’t plan to schedule a hearing for a proposed constitutional amendment that would pump hundreds of millions of dollars into early childhood education programs.
The senator says he’s done the vote-counting in his committee and “they don’t have the votes.”
The Deming Democrat didn’t refuse to hear the proposal under any circumstances, but said he hasn’t seen any proposed amendment that would change votes. Asked if that meant he wouldn’t schedule a hearing for any such measures, Sen. Smith said “Not until the votes are there.”
There are philosophical differences, of course, but Sen. Smith also says Congress has to step in because the funds were created and the recipients of their payouts dictated when New Mexico was granted statehood 101 years ago. The Senate Rules Committee amended the bill to account for congressional approval, but Sen. Smith says his legal counsel tells him there are still issues.
Sen. Smith is a longtime opponent of taking a larger bite out of the permanent funds that contribute hundreds of millions of dollars annually to the state’s education budget. He’s none too anxious to give the bill a hearing, but seemed to indicate he would if the votes on the ten-member committee change.
There are six Democrats and four Republicans on the committee. Many of those counting votes say Sen. Smith is a “no” and would serve to deadlock the bill. That focuses attention on Senator George Munoz, a pragmatic voter and perhaps more conservative Democrat from Western New Mexico. Sen. Munoz was among those meeting in Sen. Smith’s office Monday morning as the committee chair gathered information from Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford.
Tags: Constitutional Amendment, Early Childhood Education, John Arthur Smith, Permanent Fund