An “Easy” $19 million budget cut for NM policymakers

New Mexico’s Lottery Scholarship was always supposed to be funded directly by lottery revenues. As is so often the case, that’s not how things have worked out. A few years ago legislators shifted $19 million in liquor excise taxes to support the scholarship program.

This was never good public policy, but with the budget situation facing the State, it is hard to see how this revenue shift can continue. Not surprisingly, the institutes of higher education themselves are eager to keep the additional revenue flowing to their bottom lines, but this simply points to the need for broader reforms, not more money.

As we’ve noted in this space before (and can be seen below), New Mexico is a big-spender when it comes to higher education. The issue is how to right-size higher ed in a way that maximizes what money is available. Shutting down branch campuses MAY be the most effective single strategy for right-sizing higher education, but restoring the original intent of the Lottery Scholarship may be one of the simplest.