New Mexico’s financial fortunes are changing with a dramatic infusion of billions of state and federal dollars. With that change will also likely come the election of Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham to a second term in 2022, despite Republican smear tactics.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND HOSPITALS
On December 16, it was reported that during the Special Session of the New Mexico Legislature to redraw congressional and legislative political districts, the legislature enacted a spending bill that allocates $504.5 million in federal pandemic aid toward highways, internet infrastructure, tourism ads, hospital construction and more. The NM State House approved final changes from the Senate, sending the bill to the Governor for signature. Included in the bill is at least $123 million in spending on internet projects, including “alternative broadband” using emerging technologies like wireless towers, and new satellite internet networks, road repairs around New Mexico.
“The sparsely populated rural state has struggled for years to expand internet access by laying underground fiberoptic cables. The issue was pushed to the forefront during the pandemic because of inequalities in online education and healthcare access.”
Senate amendments added $2 million for teacher loan repayment and $50 million for a rural hospital. The bill includes money to build libraries in Native American communities and $10 million to bolster budgets at food banks that have provided a crucial safety net during the coronavirus pandemic.
The money would come from the nearly $1.1 billion in remaining pandemic relief funds. Lawmakers want to put around half of that money in the state general fund, providing more flexibility on spending deadlines.”
The link to quoted source material is here:
BUILDING AN ACUTE CARE HOSPITAL IN VALENCIA COUNTY
The enacted and revised spending bill that allocates millions in federal coronavirus relief funds to various projects and programs. The legislation includes money to construct and equip an acute care hospital in New Mexico. The New Mexico House vote of 65-1 calling for $50 million to construct a new hospital “in a county with less than 100,000 residents.” The legislation doesn’t specify any county, but Valencia County is considered the beneficiary.
On December 21, Governor Lujan Grisham signed into law the $504.5 million bill that earmarks $50 million in federal relief funds for hospital construction costs. The Governor pushed for the funding to be included in a plan that New Mexico lawmakers approved during a special session . During the signing ceremony outside a Belen health care clinic, the Governor made it clear she would not have signed the legislation if it had been included:
“I said we would get it done; we got it done!”
Links to quoted source materials are here:
Even with the governor signing the $504.5 million bill into law, there is $724 million of the federal relief dollars that remains unspent. Spending decisions on the additional funds will be made during the upcoming 30-day session that begins on January 18, 2022. The 30 sessions are referred to as the Governor’s “short sessions”, not because of the Governor’s height, but because the sessions are strictly limited to financial matters and the Governor sets the agenda.
WINDFALL IN OIL AND GAS REVENUES
On December 6, New Mexico government economists projected a new surge in state income predicting a $1.6 billion surplus in state general fund income in excess of current spending obligations for the fiscal year starting on July 1, 2022. The windfall announce has legislators considering proposals to raise pay for public school teachers, a hiring spree for local police officers and new efforts to bolster essential public services amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The petroleum sector accounts for most of the new money because of record-setting oil production in New Mexico’s portion of Permian Basin oil and gas formation. New Mexico has now overtaken North Dakota as the nation’s second-largest oil producer behind Texas. Natural gas production also has accelerated in New Mexico.
The new state government income forecast has been revised upward by more than $200 million since August. On Friday, August 28, during a Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) it was revealed that the State is experiencing an all-time high windfall of more than nearly $1 billion higher than what was projected in February of this year.
The Aust estimates released to the legislative committee by executive and legislative economists projected that New Mexico would have nearly $1.4 billion in additional money in the coming year. The $1.4 Billion is the difference between expected revenue and the state’s current $7.4 billion budget. The cause of the windfall is surging oil and natural gas production and a rise in consumer spending.
According to the August report to the Legislative Finance Committee:
“Revenues are up $851.3 million from the February 2021 estimate, due primarily to higher-than-expected gross receipts tax and income tax collections that accompanied increased consumer spending and growth in high- and mid-wage employment in the first half of 2021. … Additionally, strong recovery in the oil and gas markets are pushing severance tax and federal royalty collections well above their five-year averages, resulting in large transfers to the newly created early childhood trust fund.”
The financial projections form the benchmark for budget negotiations when the Legislature convenes in January 2022 to craft a general fund spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.
Economists from the Legislature and state agencies warned that state government finances are closely linked to world oil prices that could recoil from any signal of economic recession, as health officials closely monitor the omnicron variant of COVID-19.
According to the state economists, New Mexico’s economy has recovered about two-thirds of the jobs that were lost at the outset of the pandemic in 2020, said state Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke. Secretary Clarke put it this way:
“We still have a big percentage of our population that is in a difficult financial situation. … We see the stock market doing so well. … I just want us not to forget that there is a whole sector of the economy that has not experienced those gains.”
Two separate funds were created by the New Mexico Legislature to ensure that there is adequate funding to continue to provide essential services and deal with bad economic times such as when the pandemic hit and at the same time state revenues plummeted as a result of the oil boom bust.
The two funds are the Tax Stabilization Fund and the Early Childhood Trust Fund.
The Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund is referred to as the “rainy day fund”. It was created by the legislature in 2017. The revenues for the fund come from royalties or tax collections on the oil and natural gas industries that exceed a five-year rolling average.
The Early Childhood Trust Fund was created by the legislature in 2020 at the insistence of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The funds revenue source is the same revenue source when total state cash reserves amount to 25% or more of the state’s approved spending level. Funds also come from mineral leasing payments on federal land. The trust fund makes annual distributions to help fund early childhood programs statewide, a major priority of the Lujan Grisham Administration.
According to the Legislative Finance Committee, both funds are projected to spike considerably over the next 2 fiscal years with the following projections made:
TAX STABILIZATION RESERVE
Fiscal year 2021: $1.8 Billion Fiscal Year 2022: $2.2 Billion Fiscal year 2023: $2.3 Billion
EARLY CHILDHOOD TRUST FUND:
Fiscal year 2021: $334.7 Million Fiscal Year 2022: $505.4 Million Fiscal year 2023: $283.6
Note that based on revenue estimates released a total of $1.8 billion is projected to be in the Tax Stabilization Reserve fund at the end of the current fiscal year that started on July 1, 2021 and ends June 30, 2022, or more than half the state’s estimated $3.1 billion in total reserves. Also not that upwards of $1.1 billion is projected to be transferred into the Early Childhood Trust Fund over a three-year period ending in June 2023.
In August, according to the Legislative Finance Committee over the last decade New Mexico’s revenue levels have gone up and down from as low as $5.7 Billion in 2013 to now a projected $8.8 Billion in 2023 and fluctuated widely from year to year. The reported breakdown by fiscal years is as follows:
2013 – $5.7 billion
2014 – $6 billion
2015 – $6.2 billion
2016 – $5.7 billion
2017 – $5.7 billion
2018 – $6.8 billion
2019 – $8 billion
2020 – $7.8 billion
2021 – $8 billion (estimated level)
2022– $8.1 billion (estimated level)
2023 – $8.8 billion (estimated level)
The links to quoted source material are here:
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
On December 21, 2021, it was reported that according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest Drilling Productivity Report, oil output in the Permian Basin will surpass 5 million barrels per day in January.
“The agency forecasts that crude volumes from the region in the western part of Texas and the south-eastern part of New Mexico will go up from 4,960 thousand barrels per day (Mbbl/d) in December to 5,031 Mbbl/d next month. The projected production figure for January would be a new record for America’s biggest oil field and reflects the steady addition of rigs. As proof of improvement in activity, the rig count in the Permian Basin has risen to 288 from an all-time low of 116 in August 2020.
As far as combined U.S. oil supplies from seven major shale formations (Anadarko, Appalachia, Bakken, Eagle Ford, Haynesville, Niobrara and Permian) is concerned, EIA expects it to increase from 8,342 Mbbl/d in December to 8,438 Mbbl/d in January. With crude prices hovering around the $70-barrel level, production is expected to increase in six of the seven unconventional plays, with the largest gain of 71,000 barrels per day happening in the Permian Basin.”
The link to quoted source material is here:
INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS AND JOBS ACT
On November 6, 2021, the bipartisan $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) was enacted by congress. It is designed to modernize America’s crumbling infrastructure for the 21st century and create good-paying union jobs while supporting small businesses and resources for working families and rebuilding for a more climate resilient future.
The funding will modernize New Mexico’s infrastructure to rebuild the economy, put New Mexicans back to work, and invest in critical infrastructure. The bill is expected to invest more than $3.7 billion in New Mexico’s broadband, water, roads, bridges, public transportation, electric vehicle, airport and other infrastructure, with the opportunity to apply for further funding.
According to First Congressional District Congresswoman Melanie Standbury, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will transform New Mexico’s economy in the following 9 areas:
1. Investing $2.5 billion in New Mexico’s highways and $225 million in bridge replacement and repairs to repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change resilience and equity.
In New Mexico there are over 3,822 miles of highway and 207 bridges in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 7.7% in New Mexico, and on average, each driver pays over $750 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair. New Mexico will also have the opportunity to apply for funds under the nearly $16 billion in national funding dedicated for major projects that to deliver substantial economic benefits to our communities.
2. Connecting New Mexicans to reliable high-speed internet.
Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, New Mexico is expected to receive a minimum of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the state, including providing access for the at least 220,000 New Mexicans who lack internet connectivity. Currently, 10.7% of New Mexicans live in areas where, under the FCC’s benchmark, there is no broadband infrastructure. Even where infrastructure is available, broadband may be too expensive to be within reach. The bill also expands resources for low-income families, which would help an estimated 38% of New Mexicans afford internet access under the Affordable Connectivity Benefit.
3. Improving our nation’s airports.
Airports in New Mexico are expected to receive approximately $90 million for infrastructure development for airports over five years.
4. Delivering clean drinking water for New Mexico and eliminating the nation’s lead service lines and pipes.
The bill is expected to invest $355 million over five years in New Mexico to improve water infrastructure across the state. This funding is critical for communities in New Mexico, especially rural and Tribal communities, that lack access to clean drinking water due to decades of underinvestment.
5. Improving public transportation options for New Mexicans.
New Mexicans who take public transportation spend an extra 94.3% of their time commuting. One-fifth, or 20%, of transit vehicles in the state are past useful life. Based on formula funding alone, New Mexico is expected to receive $366 million over five years under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to improve public transportation options across the state
6. Improving power and water systems.
The bill invests $65 billion nationwide to rebuild the electric grid and pave the way for a clean energy transition, including by building thousands of miles of new power lines and expanding renewable energy like wind and solar. This is crucial to modernizing New Mexico’s grid and tackling the climate crisis. After passing a state grid modernization act last year introduced by Rep. Stansbury as a state lawmaker, New Mexico’s infrastructure is poised to implement these funds.
7. Investing in environmental remediation.
The bill would provide $21 billion to clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mines, and cap orphaned natural oil and gas wells that dot the landscape and contribute to climate change.
8. Building a network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to facilitate long-distance travel and provide convenient charging options.
The bill invests $7.5 billion to build out the first-ever national network of EV chargers in the United States to address the climate crisis and support domestic manufacturing jobs. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, New Mexico is expected to receive $38 million over five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network. New Mexico will also have the opportunity to apply for the $2.5 billion in grant funding dedicated to EV charging in the bill. This funding is critical to achieve net-zero and low carbon emissions in our transportation sector, and especially important in New Mexico where communities are spread out and families must drive long distances.
9. Preparing our infrastructure for the impacts of climate change, cyber-attacks, and extreme weather events.
New Mexico has experienced at least 14 extreme weather events in the past decade, costing the state up to $5 billion in damages. New Mexico is expected to receive $38 million over five years to protect against wildfires and $13 million to protect against cyberattacks. New Mexicans will also benefit from the bill’s historic $3.5 billion in national investment in weatherization which will reduce energy costs for families.
The link to quoted source material is here:
2022 IS ELECTION YEAR FOR GOVERNOR MLG
On June 3, 2021, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham made it official that she is running for a second 4-year term.
There are at least 6 candidates who have announced that they are seeking the Republican nomination for Governor in 2022. Those candidates in the order of their announcements are:
1. SANDOVAL COUNTY COMMISSIONER JAY BLOCK
Block has fully aligned himself with former President Der Führer Donald Trump. In his announcement he said he is in favor of defunding abortion services and restoring qualified immunity for police officers.
2. KAREN BEDONIE
On April 25, 2021, Republican and retired teacher Karen Bedonie of Farmington announced she is running for the Republican nomination for Governor. Her announcement video featured photographs of Bedonie holding a rife, posing with law enforcers, her husband, and her family, and portrayed her campaign’s focuses on a family, faith, and freedoms-based message.
3. GREG ZANETTI
On June 14, Republican Greg Zanetti announced his campaign. Zanetti is a former Bernalillo County Republican Chairman and a former New Mexico National Guard Brigadier General who now works in the business of wealth management. He has said in the past that he does not intend to get vaccinated for covid.
4. TIM WALSH
On June 30, Albuquerque retired teacher Tim Walsh, age 74, announced he is running for the Republican nominations for Governor. Walsh previously worked as an education adviser to former Republican Governor Gary Johnson and describes himself as the same type politically as Johnson. That likely means being nothing but a libertarian who has decided to become a Republican but who smokes cannabis without telling anyone until he gets termed out.
5. REBECCA DOW
On July 7, three term Republican State Representative Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences announced that she is running for the Republican nomination for Governor. In her announcement, she vowed to address “hard truths” related to the state’s high unemployment rate, low education rankings and chronic child welfare issues.
6. MARK RONCHETTI
On October 27, TV Personality and KRQE weatherman Mark Ranchette announced he is running for Governor. Ronchetti ran for United States Senator in 2020 and lost to Ben Ray Lujan. Ronchetti has already hired Republican political consultant Jay McClesky who is known for his slash an burn tactics and defamation of candidates. There is no doubt that Ronchetti knows New Mexico as long as it’s on a green screen and no matter how inaccurate the forecast that he will be elected Governor.
The Center for Public Policy, a progressive leaning organization, has change its listing in the New Mexico Governors race as “likely democrate” to “lean democrate”. Politcal anayist Larry Sabato with the Center for Public Policy had this to say:
“Republicans do appear to have a solid challenger to Lujan Grisham in 2020 U.S. Senate nominee Mark Ronchetti, a former television weather forecaster who got within half a dozen points of now-Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) last year (there are other candidates, although he is the most notable). Lujan Grisham also has some vulnerabilities that Ronchetti may be able to exploit, although Democrats argue that Ronchetti may very well have peaked as an under-the-radar candidate in last year’s open-seat Senate race.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It very difficult to give any credence to the argument that the 2022 New Mexico Governor’s race is a “lean democrat” race. Virtually all 6 of the Republican candidates are right wing Der Führer Trump candidates with 2 trying to distance themselves from Trump. Lujan Grisham for her part knows full well what is as stake and knows how to deliver and she likely will as is the case with the Valencia County Hospital.
With $3.7 billion In Federal Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act Funding, the allocation of $478 million in federal pandemic aid out of $1.1 Billion in pandemic relief and the $1.6 billion of projected windfall from oil an gas revenues, the state’ s decades long financial woes may finally be coming to an end. The next 4 years of government expenditure of billions may prove to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to diversify the state’s economy.
Lujan Grisham will likely deliver real results while Mark Ranchette will not be able to forecast the hurricane, storms and earthquakes he will experience. No doubt Republicans will do whatever they can to smear the Governor’s accomplishments with the help of their Republican right-wing political bottom feeder consultant who is known for his defamation tactics, and for that reason Lujan Grisham will be motivated to deliver.
The link to a related blog article is here: