Money provides framework for legislature

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By Harold Morgan

Money provides framework for the annual legislative session report from the Legislative Finance Committee.
State government is fundamentally in the people business. As measured by spending planned for the budget year — FY 14 in the jargon — starting July 1, the big two are education and the catchall of health, hospitals and human services. This comes from “Legislating for Results: 2013 Post-Session Review,” published in April by the Legislative Finance Committee.
The summary outlines spending of $5.9 billion by 144 agencies. That’s just over $2,800 for each New Mexican. A lot more money passes around the general fund, transportation and Medicaid spending in particular. Enterprise operations such as the State Fair (still called Expo New Mexico) and the Land Office are businesses of sorts, generating their own financing.
The Department of Transportation expects to spend about $875 million. If the department had another $1.7 billion or so, life would be good. “The unfunded construction needs” as the LFC put it, of $1.5 billion and the “maintenance shortfalls of another $225 million” would go away.
The Legislature’s reaction to this little problem was only Rep. Bobby Gonzales’ House Memorial 10 seeking a “work group” to find more money. Gonzales, Taos Democrat, chairs the House Transportation and Public Works Committee. Another $1.5 billion of sundry “needs” remain untended, said the fiscal impact report for HM 10.
“Public school support” gets $2.5 billion this year, 42 percent of spending, plus spare change of $11.7 million to run the Public Education Department. Charter schools get 63 percent of the money covering statewide enrollment growth.
Higher education gets $790 million, 13 percent of the total.
Together, the health, hospitals and human services organizations will spend $1.6 billion from the general fund. The feds will throw in another $3.2 billion for Medicaid, pushing the Medicaid total to $4.4 billion, up 8 percent for the year.
The remaining big pieces are Aging and Long-Term Services ($44.9 million); Human Services ($1 billion); Health ($301.5 million) and Children, Youth and Families ($219.2 million).
The group retains a bureaucratic ghost, the Commission on the Status of Women. It still exists, but has no money. The Legislature approved $120,000 for operational expenses. Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the money, leaving the commission as a shade, a disembodied spirit flitting about the netherworld.
Public safety gets the largest remaining piece of the general fund with $377.5 million, or 6.4 percent of the total. The Corrections Department gets $292 million of the appropriation including $226 million for inmate management and control.
These functions will get 90 percent of the general fund this coming year. The list of the rest, the 10 percent, is long.
Functions most affecting the economy — commerce and industry and agriculture, energy and natural resources — get $113.3 million for the coming year. The Economic Development Department gets $6.6 million. EDD recently trumpeted work on behalf of the Harding County metro centers of Roy, Solano and “Moscero.” The latter community is really Mosquero. The three villages sprawl, so to speak, along about 20 miles of N.M. 39. EDD said they were emerging. From what, ED didn’t say.
A mini-boondoggle, aka a pilot program, closes our review.
HB 76 from Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, put $100,000 into ED for the Frontier Communities initiative to some help communities of fewer than 7,500 population (that means from Aztec to Lake Arthur) develop a “catalytic economic development project,” EDD says, and “plant the seeds to develop ‘community builders.’”
Right. You bet. Sure.