Some New Mexico lawmakers are tiring of amateur status | New Mexico News

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — New Mexico’s only unpaid legislature is considering dropping its amateur status.

A constitutional amendment proposed by Democratic Senators Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque and Bobby Gonzales of Taos would allow all 112 state lawmakers to collect salaries. The proposal was to be considered for the first time on Monday by a Senate panel.

Approval by the New Mexico legislature would send the measure to a statewide vote on whether to amend the constitution. Similar legislative proposals have repeatedly stalled in recent years.

New Mexico’s “citizen legislature” of volunteer politicians has long been a source of civic pride in the state. Members receive a daily stipend of approximately $165 during sessions and money for gas.

Critics of the system say the introduction of salaries could help eliminate financial conflicts of interest between legislative duties and outside careers.

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Legislators’ salaries would be set by the state Ethics Commission.

This seven-member commission was approved by voters in 2018 following a series of public corruption scandals as an arbiter of complaints against public officials, lobbyists and contractors. Its members are appointed by key legislators from both parties and by the governor.

The state currently has strong financial resources tied to increased oil production and federal spending on pandemic relief and infrastructure.

A surplus of about $1.6 billion in general fund revenue exceeding spending obligations is expected for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2022.

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