Oil not enough to fuel tough economy

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By The Staff

The price of oil is hovering around $100 a barrel.In New Mexico, a resource-rich state, this might be seen as cause for celebration, even as we gasp at the gas pump. After all, it’s common knowledge that New Mexico benefits when the prices of oil and natural gas go up.But it’s a misperception to think a strong oil market – or even strength in the energy industry as a whole – can save the state from hard financial times. And there are many signs New Mexico is headed for hard financial times.Oil is up, but natural gas – which packs a more powerful economic punch – is down, along with gross receipts and income tax revenues.The housing collapse is starting to take a toll on the national economy, the stock market dove several hundred points over a few days, and locally we are losing jobs at our national labs and some of our biggest employers.Estimates of “new money” for the budget year that starts July 1 have dropped in the last few months from $450 million to about $370 million. That amount, about 6 percent more than we are spending this year, is perhaps enough to cover inflation in the costs of health insurance, utilities and the general business of running the government.It might even be enough to continue our efforts to improve public education and expand health care to more uninsured New Mexicans.

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