$1.5 Billion For Hundreds Of Capital Outlay Projects In New Mexico Approved; Bernalillo County Gets More Money In Capital Outlay Than Any Other County In State; ABQ Gets $15 Million In Approved Capital Outlay Spending; $5 Billion Goes Unspent

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the  final $10.21 billion state budget on March 6.  The massive budget includes $1.8 billion in capital outlay requests and general obligation bond appropriations for a variety of projects in communities across the state. Each legislative session, lawmakers pass a capital outlay bill  to pay for all or part of new infrastructure or construction.

From highway improvements to school buses, following is a listing of 17 capital outlay projects with each having a $15 million or more in state funding:

  • $107 million in Bernalillo County for Rio Bravo Boulevard improvements
  • $75 million in Lea County to improve Highway 128 from milepost 28.8 to 50.5 near Jal
  • $70 million in Eddy County to improve Highway 180 from milepost 128.27 to 142.5
  • $62.8 million in McKinley County to improve the Interstate 40 bridge east of Gallup
  • $45 million in Doña Ana County to improve the intersection of state highways 213 and 404
  • $45 million in multiple counties to improve Highway 380 from Roswell to the state line
  • $40 million in Santa Fe County to improve Interstate 25 from milepost 276 to 291
  • $34 million in Union County for the Northeast New Mexico Correctional Facility
  • $30 million for tribal community projects in several counties
  • $30 million in San Miguel County for New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute forensics facility construction in Las Vegas
  • $29 million for the Public Education Department to replace school buses statewide
  • $25 million in Colfax County to improve the I-25 and U.S. 64 intersection in Raton
  • $18 million for Water Trust Board projects statewide
  • $16 million for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to do facility and infrastructure improvements at state parks
  • $15.6 million in Bernalillo County for Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Park improvements
  • $15 million in Bernalillo County for renovations at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Cancer Center
  • $15 million in Sandoval County for Sandoval County Magistrate Court construction



The 2024 New Mexico State legislature committed $289 million to 468 new capital outlay projects in Bernalillo County.  Forty-two capital outlay projects in the county also got reauthorized.

Most of the new projects are in Albuquerque, but there are also projects in Los Ranchos, Tijeras, To’hajiilee and the Chilili Land Grant. More new projects and more money are being committed to Bernalillo County than any other county in the state.

The three getting the most capital money are:

  • Rio Bravo Boulevard improvements, coming in at $107 million and funded through severance tax bonds. The state Department of Transportation project will widen Rio Bravo from four lanes to six lanes from Isleta to Second, according to Bernalillo County Deputy Manager Elias Archuleta. The project will also reconstruct the bridges over the Rio Grande.
  • Improvements for Balloon Fiesta Park in Albuquerque, costing $15.6 million from the state general fund. The funding could be used for upgrades to water, sewer and electrical and restrooms. There is also $100,000 for Balloon Fiesta Park baseball field improvements and $50,000 for baseball cages.
  • $15 million from the general fund to renovate the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Cancer Center.

There are 33 new projects with more than $1 million in capital outlay funds located in Bernalillo County.

The governor vetoed one $200,000 capital outlay project in Bernalillo County,  improvements for Netherwood Park, also known as the  Lt. Governor Diane Denish memorial playground park,  and central Albuquerque parks,  before signing the capital outlay bill.



Housing, parks and police helicopters are just a few of the big-ticket items in Albuquerque getting state funding. The Legislature approved millions in capital outlay dollars for Albuquerque projects this session.

Balloon Fiesta Park will get $15.7 million for infrastructure improvements. The city’s wish list for Balloon Fiesta Park upgrades includes restrooms, water, sewer and electrical upgrades, road, parking lot and walkway improvements and more parking and protection for balloon landing sites, but exactly which upgrades will be done with the state funding is undecided.

David Flores, Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation, said  the $15.7  million will not cover all of the projects on the City’s wish list. Designs for the park improvements will have to consider the planned United soccer stadium on the land, Flores said. “But these would be independent and would have benefit long term for the park. We’ve had various plans for electrical upgrades for many years and sewer needs are there now, and of course, restrooms are needed now,” Flores said.

“I personally have been here for 28 years, and I don’t think I would have ever seen the day when they come in with this sort of money for infrastructure. … Usually you’re trying to build the bigger, flashier things, but to have something invested in for years to come with infrastructure is just very prudent and responsible,” Flores said.

More parking and buying more land to ensure balloons have space for landing are high on the wish list, said Emily Moore, Parks and Recreation marketing and communications coordinator.

Aside from the hot air balloons, food is one of the biggest components of Balloon Fiesta, and upgrading electrical capabilities at the park would make it easier for food vendors to operate, according to Flores.

While Balloon Fiesta Park has received substantial amounts in capital outlay funding in years past, this year’s capital outlay funding is more sizable than Flores has seen.


The city will also get money to put toward rail yards renovations ($10.1 million) for the film academy, funding for Albuquerque Museum Education Center construction ($1.6 million), Cibola Loop Multigenerational Center ($1.2 million), North Domingo Baca Aquatic Center construction ($1 million), Rio Grande State Park improvements ($1.6 million), $11.4 million for park improvements and construction throughout the city, and $2.1 million for library renovations.


The city will also get $1.6 million for Housing Navigation Center construction and $2.2 million for affordable housing construction.

“We appreciate the important progress that was made, but it’s clear that there is still a lot of work to be done,” Mayor Tim Keller said in a statement. “As the largest city in the state, we serve and care for people from all around New Mexico, which is why we need the state to step up and take care of the critical parts of the criminal justice and behavioral health systems for which they are responsible.”


The Albuquerque Police Department will get a new helicopter for $3 million. Other public safety-focused dollars include money for Southwest Public Safety Center construction ($1.7 million), fire station renovation and construction ($3.9 million), road projects and infrastructure in the city ($3.8 million), and the Paseo del Norte and Unser expansion ($2.8 million).

Bernalillo County Commissioner Walt Benson shared his support for the Paseo/Unser project, which will expand Paseo del Norte to four lanes for a section of the road, before Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the capital outlay bill into law.

Benson said in a statement:

“We will make sure the city has any support it might need from the county as this project gets underway.”



On November 15, 2023, the on-line news agency Source New Mexico reported that billions in public funds meant to pay for new buildings, vehicles and equipment for local communities throughout New Mexico have not been spent. Legislative staff are recommending state officials create a new government office to help complete projects.

“State analyst Cally Carswell told the Legislative Finance Committee that at the end of September, 2023 there was nearly $5 billion in unspent funds set aside for 4,900 projects funded by the state’s “capital outlay” program. There are 766 active projects, which lawmakers have given at least $1 million for fiscal year 2024, accounting for $3.6 billion in total, according to data produced by legislative staff.

Of those, 415 are on schedule, 170 are behind schedule, and 181 have had no activity, or the local governments responsible have not sold the bonds needed to raise the money, or are facing “significant obstacles to completion,” according to the report. These include, for example, the relocation of the Guadalupe County Magistrate Court, a few senior center projects, numerous projects with the city of Santa Fe, money set aside for road construction and money for a therapeutic group home run by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.

Only 11 projects funded with more than $1 million have been completed or have been granted an extension, according to the LFC data. This includes the Vladem Contemporary Museum of Art in Santa Fe, upgrades to the Albuquerque Police Department evidence lab, a vehicle for the Albuquerque Fire Department, and upgrades to a building at Eastern New Mexico University.

Earlier in the year Carswell told lawmakers that construction costs are increasing, and contractors are having difficulty attracting and retaining qualified workers to meet demand for construction in the state.  In a November  update, she said the situation remained the same.

Carswell said almost all of the 1,400 projects lawmakers approved in the 2023 legislative session were funded with money out of the state’s General Fund, its biggest single pot of public money. The source of the money matters because the law that authorizes spending requires each capital outlay project to spend at least 5% of the money within a year. When that doesn’t happen, the money gets pulled back into the General Fund.”

Three key state agencies that manage most capital outlay money: the Department of Finance and Administration, the Indian Affairs Department, and the New Mexico Environment Department.

[There were billions more in capital outlay requests made during the 2024 session.] Those approved projects are likely to face a “construction market saturated if not oversaturated, where it’s difficult to start new things and complete those already in the pipeline” Carswell said.

In 2025 and beyond, Carswell said she recommends lawmakers consider setting an earlier deadline for local capital outlay requests, and creating a basic method of vetting and tracking projects that get state money.

That could allow lawmakers to fund planning and design separately from construction, so that the larger amounts of money would be reserved for major construction projects with proper plans and that are ready to go, she said.”



During the 2024 legislative session that ended on February 16, lawmakers said they’re frustrated at the process of capital outlay  projects continually getting funding from the state but not getting done. While considering reauthorization of around a billion dollars in funding earmarked for capital projects statewide this year, one lead lawmaker said it’s time to spend the money or use it for something else.

It’s become an annual effort during the legislative session to push back the deadline on when billions in capital funds must be spent.  Senator Nancy Rodriguez (D-Santa Fe), who sponsored Senate Bill 246  for reauthorization of capital projects during the 2024 legislative session said this:

“The substitute includes 253 capital projects that have been requested for reauthorization–for an extension of time or purpose or administrative agency. The usual annual bill that we have to reauthorize projects so that we don’t lose the funding. … A lot of these projects got delayed due to the pandemic so we’re having to re-do these.”  

However, some senators are running out of patience after this year’s effort. Legislative analysts told legislators there’s around five billion dollars in unspent capital outlay funds, but lawmakers were missing a lot of details on those projects including when were the projects originally approved. One legislative analyst said the furthest back that project went  back in the reauthorization bill was 2016.  There’s also frustration with why it’s taking so long to spend the money.

Senator Diamond Brantley said this:

“When I look on here and see some of these are vehicle purchases, I don’t know how anyone can’t get a vehicle purchased in five years. …  At some point, we have to say enough is enough because we’re sitting on this money.”

Senator George Muñoz (D-Gallup)  went so far as to say that next year, he won’t entertain any reauthorization requests. Muñoz said  this:

“We’re going to draw the line in the sand and say, ‘we can’t get it done.’ And we’ll take that money as cash and we’ll backfill projects that need to be completed so we can get stuff done.”



The approval of $1.5 billion for hundreds of capital outlay projects during the 2023 legislative session is indeed as impressive as it gets. You would think that the hardest part of getting any truly needed capital-outlay-project would be making sure there is enough funding to get it done. But that’s not the case in the State of New Mexico. It turns out actually spending it has become the problem.

$5 billion in unspent funds set aside for 4,900 projects funded by the state’s “capital outlay” program is an embarrassment. The legislature needs to implement an aggressive review of all projects and defund and reappropriate funding  and ensure the money is in fact spent.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.