OFF AND ON: Oil, gas revenues helping avoid budget problems

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By Ralph Damiani

While higher fuel prices hurt consumers – and the state highway fund – they are helping the rest of state government avoid a budget squeeze this year.

This is despite a slowdown in the state's economy and an expected dip in certain tax collections, the Associated Press reported.

The high revenues from oil and natural gas production are serving as a financial safety net for the state.

"Very high prices for crude oil and natural gas are producing revenues that offset some weakness in revenues from the broad-based taxes and interest on the state's investments," Katherine Miller, secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, said.

Despite economic turmoil nationally and a slowing of New Mexico's economy, the state still expects to collect nearly $6 billion this fiscal year.

Even if the state's overall revenue collections fall short of projections, New Mexico maintains hefty cash reserves that can be used to cover a gap between revenues and spending.

Lawmakers and the Richardson administration use revenue projections to prepare the state's budget and track whether government is headed for a financial shortfall.

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