New government has plenty of work in 2019


January 2, 2019

Out with the old, in with the new is the theme each New Year’s. Nowhere is that more true than in New Mexico as 2018 ends and 2019 begins.

With the beginning of the new year, New Mexico will be getting a new government, fresh with a new governor, new state office holders and new legislators. Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham took office on Tuesday, taking over for Republican Susana Martinez, who completed her second term on New Year’s Eve.

New Mexico could see more change in the coming year than it has in the past eight years. That may or may not be a good thing.

Martinez told the Albuquerque Journal she wished Lujan Grisham success “because her success will be New Mexico’s success.” We do, too. But Lujan Grisham has her work cut out for her as she tries to fulfill myriad campaign promises while making decisions in the state’s best short-term and long-term interests.

Job No. 1 is the budget, and the governor and Legislature will have an interesting time slicing up the revenue pie, with more than $1 billion in “new money” expected to be available for the fiscal year starting July 1 thanks to the recent oil and gas boom. While state economists are urging caution following the budget crisis of just a few years ago, there are plenty of government agencies and advocacy groups seeking a slice of that new money.

There’s a proposal to raise teachers salaries by $10,000 a year — part of an effort to comply with a vague District Court judge’s order in a lawsuit saying New Mexico’s schools are not adequately funded. The total price tag on proposed fixes to the education system ranges from $350 million to $1 billion.

And there are other unfunded liabilities that need addressing:

• Two public retirement systems that won’t meet their promises to employees.

• A $250 million backlog in film incentives.

• Hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance in state buildings.

• The state road fund that’s been starved for years because officials have had to scramble to pay off the Rail Runner debt.

• And the additional $63 million for Medicaid as the federal government scales back its subsidy.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

— Albuquerque Journal


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