Education, health, hospitals and human services get 84 percent of state spending

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By Harold Morgan

“Follow the money,” is the advice. Wander around the top levels of the state’s general appropriations act and you find people are the focus of state government. What the Legislative Finance Committee calls “recurring general fund appropriations,” the product of this year’s legislative session, is $6.16 billion for the budget year starting July 1, which is called Fiscal Year 15 or FY 15.
Our state government does people: kids through high school in the public schools, young adults (mostly) in colleges, and everyone with an emphasis on children in the broad array covered by health, hospitals and human services.
The numbers from the LFC’s “2014 Post-Session Review” show education (public schools, higher and other) with a $3.5 billion appropriation, or 58 percent of the general appropriation. The health function will get $1.6 billion. The combined percentage is 84 percent. The leftover 16 percent includes important functions, such as public safety ($393.9 million) and judicial ($218.6 million).
Transportation,­ as with the Department of Transportation, is the biggest function outside the general fund.
While scanning the spending summaries, the dominance of higher education by the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, though hardly new, happened to stand out. UNM and NMSU are the big schools, so it makes sense that they get the big piece of higher education’s $829.5 million. UNM pretentiously calls itself the “flagship university.” Counting UNM’s Health Sciences Center, the two will get $514.9 million from the general fund, or 62 percent.
Throw in the other three of the five largest by budget — Central New Mexico Community College ($55.1 million), Eastern New Mexico University ($46.1 million), and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology ($37.9 million) — and the total becomes 79 percent, leaving 21 percent for the other dozen institutions.
See capitolreportnm.blogspot.com for an example of spending by the Little 12.
The biggest portion of education spending ($2.7 billion) goes to the public schools, with nearly all school money ($2.4 billion) for “program cost.” Transportation gets just over $100 million, with $107 million for “related appropriations,” which might be considered petty cash on the scale of things. They range from $25,000 for “teacher mentorship” to $21.3 million for the Kindergarten Three Plus program.
The total comes to $1.6 billion for the health, hospitals and human services functions.
The Human Services Department comes in at $36.6 million over $1 billion. Medicaid accounts for $904.5 million. “Medicaid,” Wikipedia explains, “is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with low income in the United States.”
Almost half the $306 million set for the Department of Health will be for developmental disabilities support. The department’s other big areas are public health ($64.7 million) and facilities management ($58.8 million for seven operations). Bits and pieces include $100,000 for an Institute for Spanish Arts (in the Department of Health?). The administration recommended nothing for the institute.
The Children, Youth and Families Department will have $230.2 million for the coming year, including $76.5 million for protective services and $60.5 million for early childhood services. A new $450,000 program will provide communities with planning grants for what the LFC calls “high-quality early childhood development centers.”
Together the cops and the jails get $382 million. That’s $277.4 million for the Corrections Department and $104.6 million for the Department of Public Safety.
Financially everything else is an afterthought.
Possibly the best news of the entire session, tongue only half in cheek here, is the veto of money for performance art programs. Much of the measure of government should be in things not done.