The New Mexico Legislature is in the midst of its 30-day (budget) session. The primary mission of the session is to get a budget done and the House actually passed a budget already with weeks remaining with an overwhelming vote of 65-3. Great news, right? Not so fast. (and kudos to Reps. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo, Jim Townsend of Artesia, and Rick Little of the Las Cruces area for being the three “No” votes).
There are several, serious issues with the budget that we hope will be fixed either in the Senate or through the veto pen of Gov. Martinez. Here are the problems listed by priority:
- The biggest single issue is the inclusion of $10 million for a new hangar at Spaceport America. With a grand total of zero manned space tourism flights under its belt and at a cost of $225 million (plus a runway extension and the Southern Road), the Spaceport needs a new hangar??? Also included in the budget is a 45% increase in the Spaceport’s operations budget. Amazing.
- Raises for all government workers: New Mexico pays its government employees quite well relative to the private sector (16% better to be exact). If it is hard to find quality government workers, then give those people raises. We know of no outflow of government bureaucrats into the private sector to justify these raises.
- Overall spending growth at 4.1% is too fast. New Mexico’s population growth is practically nil. Inflation is rising at about 2.1% and oil and gas prices are highly-volatile. This is not the stuff of economic growth to justify growing government by 4.1% in a single year.
- Raises of 10% for governor, AG, secretary of state, treasurer, and the PRC. It’s not that New Mexico doesn’t have qualified applicants for these jobs, it’s that voters don’t seem capable of electing and politically supporting the people who can turn our State around. This one strikes me as a big, fat target for Gov. Martinez’s veto pen. That said, we’re not talking a great deal of money in the long-run and there is a reason this is the lowest priority on the list: it’s a lot less money than the Spaceport and the across-the-board raises.