ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Several university leaders in New Mexico are supporting Gov. Susana Martinez’s plan to funnel $7.5 million into a state fund to recruit new college professors, scientists and researchers.
The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/JVcjcX) that Martinez’s plan would allow the state’s universities to compete for competitive grants, instead of having them divvied up by colleges based on a set formula, as has been the practice in the past.
Funding decisions would likely be made by a committee of state officials, though details are still being worked out.
Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell says most of the recruited professors and researchers would be in key areas such as science, engineering, health and mathematics.
Any approved grants from the fund would require the receiving university to provide matching funds, which is also a current requirement.
Democratic state Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela of Santa Fe, who is chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee, noted that the Republican governor used her line-item veto authority this year to strike down a proposed $20 million appropriation into the same higher education endowment fund.
“I don’t know what changed her mind, but we had proposed putting money into that in this year’s budget,” Varela said. “Maybe she’s finally come around.”
The governor’s office says Martinez’s plan would change the higher education endowment fund’s structure and how money in the fund is used.
“Unlike the previous system of allocating endowment funding, this new approach will allow for greater targeting and review of proposed endowed chairs, ensuring that institutions receiving this money have matching funds in place to help recruit some of the best professors and researchers in the country,” Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said.
In her line-item veto message in April, the governor contended the proposed $20 million appropriation for the higher education fund would not have been a wise use of state resources, in part because there currently is little accountability for how the money is spent.
Varela said the Legislature is willing to consider Martinez’s plan to make structural changes to the endowment fund.
A separate bill would make the structural changes to the higher education endowment fund.
The governor’s initiative is one of several proposals she plans to push during the coming session to bolster high-tech research and development in New Mexico.
The proposals were lauded last week by several university presidents, including University of New Mexico President Bob Frank and New Mexico Tech President Dan Lopez.