Spending bill with money for county hospitals clears the state’s House

By: - December 10, 2021 2:18 pm

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New Mexico’s effort to divvy up $1.1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act money is another step closer — and spending is a little bit bigger. 

Lawmakers are hammering out the details of allocating roughly half of that pot during this special session. The rest will likely be sorted out during January’s regular 30-day budget session.

UPDATE Friday, Dec. 10, at 5 p.m.

The House passed the spending bill, HB 2, this evening, 65-1. Rep. Stefani Lord (R-East Mountains) cast the lone vote against the measure.

The House Appropriation and Finance Committee passed HB 2 Friday morning with amendments, increasing the total budget from a little over $460 million to $504.5 million.

The biggest appropriation added to the measure today is $50 million to construct and equip hospitals in low-population counties — defined as having fewer than 100,000 residents.

The bill does not specify any New Mexico county that is in the process of seeking money to build an acute care facility. 

“This is a work in progress. The hospital that has come to my attention — which doesn’t mean it would be limited to — is Valencia,” said Rep. Patty Lundstrom (D-Gallup), chair of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee.

She said any county that meets the criteria could apply for funding to build a hospital.

This will be open to the majority of New Mexico, as 28 out of the 33 counties in the state have a population under 100,000 residents, according to 2020 census numbers.

In scramble to spend federal money, lawmakers make million-dollar errors

The amendment also proposes another $2 million for a scholarship fund for public school teachers’ professional development. 

And the revised measure includes $10 million to upgrade tribal libraries across New Mexico to equip the facilities with broadband.

Plus, HB 2 now splits housing funding — $10 million for housing unsheltered people and $15 million for energy-efficient affordable housing projects. 

Legislators removed $15 million from the bill that was mistakenly appropriated for Water Fund projects and for the Department of Game and Fish to buy land. It was revealed in a Senate committee meeting Thursday that neither needed the money.

Lundstrom told Source New Mexico that the time crunch to get this budget bill crafted and moving forward was part of why that error happened.

The spending bill is headed to the House floor for a full vote.

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.