SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is preparing to set aside billions of dollars to sustain government spending in the future in case an oil production bonanza fades in the transition to cleaner sources of energy. The Senate on Monday approved a $10.2 billion annual spending plan that also creates new endowments and trusts designed to support critical programs in the future. The 31-10 Senate vote sends the bill back to the House for concurrence on amendments. The Democratic-led Legislature has until noon on Thursday to send a budget bill to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for consideration.
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico would set aside well over $1 billion to guarantee tuition-free college and sustain government spending in case its oil production bonanza fades in the transition to cleaner energy sources under an annual spending plan endorsed by the state Senate on Monday.
The 31-10 Senate vote sends the bill back to the House for concurrence on amendments. The Democratic-led Legislature has until noon Thursday to send a budget bill to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who can approve or veto any provisions.
The bill as amended would increase annual general fund spending by $653 million, or 6.8%, to $10.2 billion for the fiscal year running from July 2024 through June 2025.
The boost in state spending is dwarfed by more than $1.3 billion in general fund transfers to new endowments and trusts designed to bolster scholarships for college and professional training, housing construction, outdoor conservation programs and autonomous Native American education programs.
Legislators anticipate a $3.5 billion budget surplus for the coming fiscal year, driven largely by oil and natural gas production in the Permian Basin that overlaps southwestern New Mexico and western Texas.
Republican state Sen. William Burt of Alamogordo urged colleagues to support the bill “because oil and gas won’t always be there for us.”
“We’ve got to look farther than the next few years. We’ve got to look at the long … future of New Mexico,” said Burt, one of six Republicans who voted for the spending bill.
The budget plan includes a new $959 million trust to permanently underwrite tuition-free college without fees for New Mexico residents — an initiative championed by Grisham since taking office in 2019. Public scholarships still are supported in part by lottery ticket sales.
The bill allocates $512 million to a “government results and opportunity” trust that would underwrite a variety of new programs during a three-year vetting period before future funding is guaranteed.
Another $75 million fund would help state and local governments compete for more federal infrastructure spending from the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration’s signature climate, health care and tax package.
A conservation fund established in 2023 would get a $300 million infusion. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said that would guarantee annual distributions of about $21 million to an array of conservation programs at state natural resources agencies, from soil enhancement programs in agriculture to conservation of threatened and big-game species.
A revolving loan fund to finance construction would receive a $175 million infusion to expand both housing and commercial building inventory.
“New Mexico, you are not a poor state,” said state Sen. George Muñoz of Gallup, the Senate’s lead budget negotiator, urging colleagues to endorse the budget and its investment strategy.
Democratic state Sen. Bill Soules of Las Cruces voted for the bill but cautioned that the state shouldn’t lose sight of such urgent concerns as childhood poverty as it builds up savings and investments. The bill includes funding for universal free school breakfasts and lunches.
“Are we afraid of the future and so afraid that we’re going to put money away for the future instead of addressing the needs today?” Soules said. “Making sure children don’t go hungry in New Mexico, aren’t abused and have a place to sleep at night — all of those are our obligations.”
Major annual spending increases include a 6.1% boost to K-12 public school funding, to $4.4 billion.
Medicaid spending would increase by $180 million, or 11%, as pandemic-era federal subsidies for the program recede and New Mexico increases payment rates to medical providers, including care for women with newborn children. The budget bill also increases pay by 3% for state employees and staff at K-12 schools, state colleges and public universities at an annual cost of $214 million.
It would funnel more money to rural hospitals, literacy programs, state police salaries, safety-net programs for seniors and road construction and maintenance.
Several provisions of the budget are contingent upon approval of companion legislation:
—New Mexico would become the 14th state to ensure paid time off to workers when they’re seriously ill or to care for newborns and loved ones under a bill that advanced Monday toward a decisive House floor vote after Senate approval. The budget would provide at least $24 million to launch the program, which funds leave through a combination of employee and employer contributions.
—Final passage is still pending on changes that would reduce personal income taxes across the earnings spectrum, collect more taxes on investment income, and provide tax credits toward the purchase of new and used electric vehicles that can be combined with federal subsidies. State government would forgo about $220 million in annual income. The bill passed the Senate on a 26-13 vote Monday, and awaits a House concurrence vote.
—Final approval also was pending Monday on several new endowments and trusts.
Southeast New Mexico is investing in you
Southeast New Mexico College recently participated with other community colleges in the state in an economic impact study conducted by Lightcast, a global leader in labor market analytics. Given the sheer amount of data that must be included, such studies are always a couple years in arrears. The year chosen was 2021-2022, which happens to be when New Mexico State University – Carlsbad became SENMC. While that complicated the process somewhat, we knew it would provide a baseline look at the college upon its founding.
Even in that roller coaster of a year, the results were still impressive. Based on historical data, SENMC students will see an average 20.9% annual return on the funds they spend on their education. This is a stunning figure when you compare it to the 9.6% average annual return over the past 30 years for the U.S. stock market. The low tuition at SENMC, high state support for scholarships, and programs focused on the success of our graduates make for an incredible investment.
The benefits do not stop there. For every $1 spent on the college, the community gains $4.50 in added income and social savings. This results in a total annual impact of $60.3 million for Eddy County, with 599 jobs supported each year. The report notes that this annual economic boost is essentially equivalent to hosting the Major League Baseball World Series, buying 90 new vehicles, and purchasing a year’s worth of groceries for 139 families—combined.
This is all before the move to complete independence was truly gaining traction. At that time, there were services for students, faculty, and staff that were still provided by the New Mexico State University Main Campus. This meant that dollars were being expended on employees in Las Cruces, leading to those funds being put into circulation there. Today that local funding does not flow to a city more than three hours away. It remains here, which means that if the study was completed today, the impact would be even more significant.
In addition, we are deep in the design phase of our Trades x Technologies Building. When construction begins next year, we will see the infusion of construction wages into our region. This will be followed by academic programs in Electrical, Oil and Gas, and Radiation Control, which will enhance the skill sets of employees, both current and future, and establish a base for further economic growth in the coming decades.
The difference in an individual student’s life, however, is arguably more noteworthy. The average associate degree graduate from SENMC will see an increase in earnings of $11,600 each year in their career as compared to someone with a high school diploma. Quality of life generally increases with more education because of the increase in salary, better health outcomes, and the pride that comes with academic achievement.
The change that occurs in one’s life due to education reverberates through the generations. Yes, the dollars and cents matter. Reports such as the one from Lightcast make the case for the importance of our college in the community. But you cannot place a price on a new perspective or an increased thirst for knowledge and excellence. To see the world with new eyes and live a life that is a voyage of discovery, to loosely paraphrase Marcel Proust, is beyond material and temporal value.
The faculty and staff of Southeast New Mexico College live to create such an experience for our students. If you or someone you know are seeking to become more, we hope you will join us for a journey of a lifetime.
Kevin Beardmore may be reached at email@example.com or 575.234.9211.
UNM study finds Santolina developers ‘likely overstated’ goals – Source New Mexico
An economic analysis from the University of New Mexico found that developer targets “are likely overstated,” for Santolina, a controversial development on Albuquerque’s far west side, and warrants further study of its potential revenues and potential costs.
UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research further found that under more realistic hypothetical scenarios for housing, population and employment growth, New Mexico governments’ spending to build public facilities and services could outstrip the tax revenues.
Currently the Santolina project is structured to allow tax revenues from Bernalillo County to reimburse development costs through the creation of a Tax Increment Development District (TIDD).
Developers for Santolina are required to show the development will meet a “no net expense provision,” as part of the Planned Communities policy adopted by the county.
UNM researchers said the data was limited in some of the projections, but their findings raised questions about whether the development can realistically meet its stated goals.
“Just based on our results from our study, which is a snapshot, not comprehensive, the county may want to examine the revenues versus costs, in order to evaluate the ‘no new net cost’ criteria of the project,” said Julian Baca, one of the researchers in an interview with Source NM.
The Bernalillo County Commission invited Baca to present the findings for 10 minutes to the commission Tuesday evening.
Commissioner Eric Olivas called the findings “eye-popping,” and said further discussion should occur with the county manager, economic development staff and planning staff.
“The level of public investment to subsidize a private developer is massive, and I don’t see the return on investment for the jobs that are projected to be created,” Olivas said.
He called it a “cautionary tale” in approving economic development agreements, when the county requires further investments in infrastructure.
Commissioner Walt Benson asked who funded the study. It was funded in 2022 from Senate Joint Memorial 3, brought by Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque), who represents the district.
Benson asked for “further information,” of what property taxes, which were not part of the analysis, would contribute to reimbursing the developer.
“Trying to make a decision based on a partial [analysis], it’s not fair to us up here,” he said.
Commission chair Barbara Baca said that the council was constrained by time limits, but said future discussions may happen.
“This is a very short time to cover a very large issue, we could do a study session or something like that, where we can really delve into these kinds of very important questions,” Baca said.
“We will continue the conversation,” she concluded.
What is Santolina?
Santolina is a long-debated effort to build a “planned community” over 13,700 acres for a projected 100,000 people (just smaller than Rio Rancho’s current population).
Once a portion of the Atrisco Land Grant, the 21-square miles sandwiched by Interstate 40, 118th Street and Rio Puerco is now owned by developer Western Albuquerque Land Holdings. In the 2015 master plan, the eventual goal is to build 38,000 homes and create 75,000 jobs.
Bernalillo County Commissioners approved the first phase of Santolina planning in June 2015.
There has been no development at Santolina, as several phases of planning need approval.
In 2022, the board unanimously approved two requests from developers; including speeding up the timeline to 30 years, and designated more granular zoning for industrial use in a small portion of the proposed development. The board approved the plans over the objections of the planning commission and residents.
Farmers in the South Valley, community members and environmental groups have opposed the development for nearly a decade, contributing to the Contra Santolina group. Their objections have often centered around the development’s proposed water consumption, which residents said would push farmers out as climate change shrinks water supply from the Rio Grande.
The Bureau of Business and Economic Research report
The developer’s goals for Santolina are more optimistic than historic employment and population growth in Albuquerque suggest.
New Mexico is in the bottom five nationally in terms of population growth in the past ten years, Baca said.
“In terms of forecasts, all the data points to much more conservative growth, housing stock and population,” he said.
The targets set by Santolina developers are potentially way too high.
If Santolina met its stated goals issued to public officials, it would account for 49% of new housing in the area,165% of population growth and 62% of employment, the report found.
Researchers found the most active neighborhoods accounted for “no more than 10-15% of new housing in the last five years,” according to building permit data from the city of Albuquerque.
The report also looked at a case study of Mesa Del Sol, another planned community project, within city limits in southeastern Albuquerque.
While both developments have similarly stated goals, Mesa Del Sol has been in development for the past 18 years. Mesa Del Sol is way below developer expectations, the report found, only accounting for under 2% of housing permits over the last decade in Bernalillo County.
The 56-page report, commissioned by the state legislature, uses data from public sources, such as the New Mexico Department of Transportation, and interviews with public entities, but also a feasibility study commissioned by the developer and details from the master plan.
“In our assessment, recent economic, demographic and housing data do not appear to support the targets sought by Santolina Developers,” the report said in its conclusion, requesting further research on actual costs for government services and potential tax revenues.
The report further notes that if Santolina only meets 20% of its goals (an 80% reduction) it would “reduce the employment, population and potential tax revenues substantially.”
Water infrastructure and roads would be an up-front cost to the developer, Baca said, but portions of those costs could be reimbursed under the tax incentives.
A 2018 estimate from Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, said water infrastructure to the development would cost $659 million over three phases.
With rising costs in construction and labor, that number could potentially double to $1.3 billion, Baca said.
Officials from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Authority said Thursday that costs on water infrastructure construction spiked by varying degrees over the last few years.
“Depending on the type of work being done we’ve seen a 30% to 70% cost increase over the last five years,” said David Morris, a spokesperson for the water utility.
Baca emphasized this study is independent research.
“We have a reputation, a track record of doing good independent, third-party, objective research,” he said.
Previous commissioners authorized Bernalillo County tax revenues to reimburse the Santolina development, but potentially state tax revenues could be in the mix as well. Part of the fiscal analysis the developer’s commissioned looked at seeking state reimbursements, but that would require additional authorization.
“That would make it not just a Bernalillo County issue, but a statewide issue,” Baca said.
A handful of public commenters urged the commissioners to reconsider further approval of the Santolina development Tuesday night.
Linda Starr, a South Valley resident said the previous commissioners approved the development without checking the facts.
“I hope you will review [Santolina] thoroughly, and please consider the fact that this area should have never been up for development,” she told the commission.
The Bernalillo County Commission has adopted two rounds of planning (called a Level A plan and a portion of Level B plans), and county commissioners are the final authority on planning and development on these first levels.
A third, more granular, level of planning called the Site Development Plan (Level C), only needs approval from Bernalillo County staff before any development can happen, according to the Planned Communities policy.
Groups against the project are asking commissioners to reconsider the Bernalillo Comprehensive Plan which guides development and planning in the county. The draft will be presented at a March 19 meeting.
“Taking a harder look at the reliance on Santolina in the comprehensive plan is one thing, ” said Maslyn Locke, a senior staff attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, who has represented people opposing the project.
“The bigger thing the (Bernalillo County Commission) needs to do is really look at whether or not Santolina should have been approved in the first place.”
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New Mexico basketball team takes down No. 22 Colorado State in final seconds
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An absolute classic in the Mountain West.
The Colorado State men’s basketball team had a chance to steal a massive road victory at The Pit Tuesday night but New Mexico snatched a 68-66 win in the final seconds.
An absolutely mad final few minutes saw the teams trade blow after blow.
A Patrick Cartier 3-pointer with 43 seconds put CSU up 62-61 for its first lead of the half. New Mexico and CSU then traded buckets at a rapid pace.
Isaiah Stevens hit two free throws with 7.3 seconds left to make it 66-65 CSU, but Donovan Dent quickly raced through CSU’s defense and scored an And-1.
CSU advanced the ball for an out-of-bounds play with 2.8 seconds left but Nique Clifford’s contested shot missed and the Lobos sealed the win.
Dent had 16 points (12 of them in the second half for the Lobos).
Stevens had 20 points and nine assists for CSU. Joel Scott had 18 points and 13 rebounds.
CSU plays at UNLV at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24.
Check back to Coloradoan.com/sports on this game.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle on X (formerly known as Twitter) and Instagram @Kevin_Lytle.
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