One day when Alexandra Romero was around three years old, she was at her grandparents’ Santa Fe home with her older cousins when they began to quarrel with her and locked her outside. The adults were occupied so no one noticed the little girl let herself out of the yard and wander down West Alameda on foot, with traffic speeding by. She had covered several blocks when she startled a couple of pedestrians, who asked if she was lost. “No,” she replied confidently, “I know where I’m going.”
Now 27, Romero laughs as she recounts that bit of family lore. She can’t recall her intended destination that night, and maybe she didn’t really have one.
Samantha Sanchez, 10, reads for 20 minutes in Sharon Scarlott’s class at Gonzales Community School in Santa Fe on Dec. 20, 2013. The Martinez administration had proposed $13.5 million for remediation and intervention for students struggling to read in kindergarten through third grade. The easiest number to understand in the just-released 2019 Annie E. Casey Kid’s Count report is that New Mexico ranks 50th overall in child well-being. That’s a stark ranking, the second year in a row New Mexico earned that distinction.
In the wake of the 2019 legislative session, people across New Mexico are taking stock of how much Legislature-approved money to fund infrastructure will end up in their communities. There’s a lot of it–$933 million in the main capital outlay bill and an additional $60 million in “junior” spending bills drafted after lawmakers realized how flush the state is in oil money. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has until April 5th to sign legislation. Before she signs off on the infrastructure spending, called capital outlay, it’s possible she’ll use her line item veto authority to strike some of the projects. She asked state agencies to “vet” projects, according to an email sent last week to potential recipients by the Department of Finance and Administration.
It’s like cruising along in a refurbished airplane, which works well enough, but isn’t shiny anymore, then looking down at a new plane and deciding to jump out to ride in that one instead. And you’ve got all the parts in your hands to make a parachute, but you’ve got to put them together on the way down. That’s how one coal miner says the planned shut down of the San Juan Generating Station and its associated mine feels right now. He was one of a trio of miners who drove the three and a half hours Thursday to tell lawmakers in Santa Fe not to forget their communities as the San Juan Generating Station is taken offline. Already, he’s transitioned his kids through a recent divorce, he told House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee members, and now he faces the end of his job sometime before the generating station shuts down in 2022 and the possibility of moving if he can’t find work.
The state land commissioner manages 9 million acres of surface land, and 13 million acres of mineral estate, with a mandate to maximize revenue from those acres through leases to pay for public schools and universities. Fossil fuels accounts for 92.7 percent of the revenue generated the office. Commissioner candidates talk about where renewable energy fits into the picture.
A couple of years ago a mother came to Ray Jaramillo, director of a childcare center in Las Cruces. She worked for minimum wage at Burger King, but was offered a supervisory position with better hours and a wage bump to over $9 an hour. She worried the extra money could cause her to lose childcare assistance for her two little girls. Between her and her spouse’s salary, their new earning power would push her family over the line for government-subsidized child-care. She had to figure out whether to take the promotion and risk paying thousands of dollars more each year for childcare, or forgo the extra family income.
In case you missed it, you should check out Heath Haussamen’s five-part series on Spaceport America that ran on nmpolitics.net last week. It’s informative, especially the revelations about how much Spaceport America staff is keeping from the public in violation of state transparency laws.
A gaping revenue shortfall and lack of reserves have New Mexico’s legislators worried about short-circuiting the progress of large investments made in early childhood and safety net programs in recent years. A steep decline in the price of oil has contracted an industry on which New Mexico relies heavily, leading to broad layoffs, sales of oilfield equipment, foreclosures and bankruptcies. That, in turn, has gutted the cash from tax revenues state leaders counted on to pay for state operations. State leaders emptied out the state’s reserve fund to balance last year’s budget. Now they must close this year’s shortfall — projected at $69 million — without a pot of money that has cushioned economic pain in previous economic downturns.
Top 10 individual New Mexico capital outlay project appropriations, 2010-2014:
$27.5 million for the Paseo Del Norte/Interstate 25 interchange (this is one of three appropriations for the interchange totaling more than $30 million)
$20.5 million for the renovation of Farris Engineering Building, University of New Mexico
$19.2 million for the renovation of Jett Hall, New Mexico State University
$19 million for demolition and renovation of Hardman and Jacobs Hall, New Mexico State University
New Mexico’s Capital Dilemma
Read the other articles in this series:
Explore our database of capital outlay projects
Analysis: Weaknesses mar NM’s capital outlay system
New Mexico’s Capital Dilemma methodology
$18 million for a geology facility, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
$17.3 million for Southwest Regional Spaceport (this is a 2012 reauthorization of a 2007 project, with some of the money forwarded to a 2014 project)
$16 million for Clark Hall renovation, University of New Mexico
$15 million for Chemistry Department facility construction, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
$13.6 million for Human Services Department information technology
$12 million for Health Science Center health education building, University of New Mexico
Bottom 10 individual New Mexico capital outlay project project appropriations, 2010-2014
$500 for equipment at the Ena Mitchell Senior & Wellness Citizens Center in Lordsburg
$570 for meals equipment at the Vaughn Senior Center
$840 for equipment at the Mora Senior Center
$900 for meals equipment at the Melrose Senior Center
(tie) $1,000 each for equipment at the Hobbs Senior Center, the Grants Senior Center and the Mitten Rock Senior Center
$1,100 for meals equipment at the Eunice Senior Center
$1,140 for equipment at the Ramah and Thoreau senior centers in McKinley County
(tie) $1,300 for equipment at the Clayton Senior Center and Logan Senior Center