See how lawmakers so far propose spending about $500 million in federal money

By: - December 6, 2021 6:49 pm

The Department of Transportation would get millions to fix up the state’s roads under the initial proposal for spending stimulus dollars in the Legislature. (Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source NM)

Lawmakers on Monday gave a first glimpse at how they’ll spend more than $1 billion in federal money, proposing to focus so far on improving the state’s broadband connectivity and on big construction projects. 

State Rep. Patti Lundstrom (D-Gallup), chair of the House Finance Committee, introduced a bill spending $470 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, less than half of the nearly $1.1 billion available in federal stimulus money. 

The two biggest items accounted for in the bill are $159 million for broadband and $142.5 million for road projects. The projects include improvements to Interstate 40 between McKinley and Cibola Counties, Interstate 25 between Montgomery Boulevard and Comanche Road in Albuquerque, and Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, in addition to other projects. 

At least $20 million would go to infrastructure at state parks, and another $20 million will go toward affordable housing, though only if those funds are fully matched by local governments that receive them, according to Lundstrom’s measure.

New Mexico received about $1.8 billion through the American Rescue Plan Act earlier this year. 

The Legislature was only recently assured of the right to allocate the federal money at all. Lawmakers sued the Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this year after she spent some of the money without going through the Legislature. 

Lujan Grisham doled out about $700 million before the litigation commenced, on things like vaccine incentives, unemployment insurance, encouraging workers to return to work and boosting pay for farmworkers harvesting chile.

It took an order from the New Mexico Supreme Court last month to put the money into the Legislature’s hands. 

The governor last week announced that lawmakers would be tasked with spending the remaining $1.1 billion in federal money during the special session, which began Monday and was already dedicated to redistricting. One legislator, George Muñoz (D-Gallup), said he was concerned the time crunch might make it difficult to thoughtfully allocate the money. 

“That’s not good fiscal responsibility,” he said last week. 

It’s not clear yet when lawmakers will debate the proposed spending. The House will reconvene Tuesday at 9 a.m. to hear a presentation on redistricting. 

Here’s a breakdown of spending in Lundstrom’s bill: 

$500,000 Administrative Office of the Courts
$26,000,000 Broadband improvements
$20,000,000 Infrastructure at state parks
$3,500,000 Orphan well planning and implementation
$7,000,000 Economic Development for outdoor recreation grants 
$10,000,000 Environment — Surface water quality and river habitats
$5,000,000 Game and Fish Department to acquire property
$20,000,000 Department of Finance and Administration for housing assistance
$10,000,000 DFA for the water project fund
$435,000 Local government division of DFA
$500,000 DFA for capital outlay
$15,000,000 Tourism marketing
$5,000,000 Food banks
$15,000,000 Public employee health care costs and testing
$10,000,000 Department of Transportation for electric vehicle charging stations
$10,000,000 DOT for upgrading regional airports
$10,000,000 Beautifucation and clean up of NM roadways
$142,500,000 DOT for infrastructure
$3,000,000 Economic Development Department for outdoor equity
$15,000,000 Higher Education Department for nursing programs
$133,066,812 Capital improvements on broadband



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Patrick Lohmann
Patrick Lohmann

Patrick Lohmann has been a reporter since 2007, when he wrote stories for $15 apiece at a now-defunct tabloid in Gallup, his hometown. Since then, he's worked at UNM's Daily Lobo, the Albuquerque Journal and the Syracuse Post-Standard.