New Mexico State University’s chancellor is seeking to allay student and employee fears by saying he’s confident the school will get its state funding in spite of a budget standoff in Santa Fe.
“I’ve been in this arena, and these things always work themselves out,” Garrey Carruthers, a former New Mexico governor, wrote in his weekly message to the NMSU community.
The governor and Legislature are locked in a battle over the 2018 fiscal year budget that begins July 1, and the state’s colleges and universities are caught in the middle. Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed all spending for higher education, the Legislature and some other agencies. The Legislative Council has asked the N.M. Supreme Court to invalidate some of those vetoes and reinstate funding. The high court has scheduled oral arguments for May 15.
The vetoes have put the state’s colleges and universities in the difficult position of not being able to plan for the fiscal year that begins in a few weeks — and come at a time when high-school seniors are deciding whether to attend college in state or out of state. Several university presidents and student body presidents from around the state have spoken out against the veto.
NMSU has been calling students who haven’t yet registered for classes in the fall, Carruthers wrote. “The concern is that 5-10 percent of the students who haven’t yet registered say their reason is that they aren’t sure the university will receive funding from the state by the time classes begin in the fall,” he wrote.
“I hope my confidence will reassure them and that they will register,” Carruthers wrote.
In addition to the Legislative Council’s petition to the Supreme Court, lawmakers or the governor calling a session to address the situation could help resolve the crisis. But no deal is in place, and it’s not even clear that policymakers are having serious talks.
Thus far, House Democrats have held the line against considering additional cuts. Martinez has said she expects to fund the agencies she vetoed as long as doing so doesn’t involve tax increases. She vetoed a $350 million tax-hike bill along with the funding for higher education and other agencies earlier this month.
Carruthers wrote that he’s spoken with several legislative leaders from both parties. “They’ve each said yes, they are confident as I am that higher education will be funded,” Carruthers wrote.
He wrote that he also called Martinez, “and while I have not yet heard back from her, she has also stated publicly that she believes this will all be resolved.”
“While this situation does present some uncertainty, I know this will all be taken care of,” Carruthers wrote. “My message to students is to sign up for your classes. My message to NMSU employees is to keep doing the outstanding work you do each day.”
“Our great university has been around since 1888 and we’ll be around for a long time to come,” Carruthers wrote.