State could lose millions in grant money

Posted at: 01/30/2013 7:47 PM
Updated at: 01/30/2013 7:48 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

New Mexico could lose millions of dollars in federal money for special education - because the state didn't keep its end of a bargain.

 We're talking about anywhere from $43 million to $93 million that the feds could withhold from Special Ed grants over the next few years.

It all started in the great recession. New Mexico and other states started trimming education budgets when tax revenues started drying up in the shrinking economy. The U.S. Education Dept. says the state failed to keep up spending levels in programs shored up with federal dollars. The state Public Education Dept. requested a waiver to sidestep those requirements, but the feds are saying no.

"It might be partly the legislature's fault," said Rep. Mimi Stewart, an Albuquerque democrat who chairs the House Education Committee. "It's certainly partly the Public Education Department's fault for not telling us, for not keeping us on track."

"Most every state had had to cut education across the country in the last 5 or 6 years," said Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Deming Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "We hope we're going to be successful is salvaging or having the feds back off on their request for the additional dollars."

"And now we really need to put more money into our funding formula so this doesn't continue to happen,' Stewart said.

So, where's the money going to come from? That's what lawmakers are grappling with right now. Projections of about $230 million in new revenues are already being whittled down, and lawmakers are looking at reserve funds to try to come up with the money - whether it's $43 million or $93 million - or more.