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Federal Stimulus: Not Much For New Mexico

January 29, 2009, 12:00 am
By Corey Pein
They were there to roll out some details on New Mexico's share of the $800 billion-jillion federal stimulus package, which passed the House yesterday, and may pass the Senate within a couple of weeks.
"Details" isn't the right word. Mostly, they had a list of numbers.
Here are some of them:
Transportation: $334 million, including $281 million for highways and bridges, and $24 million for transit projects.
K-12 education: $329 million, including $114 million for "modernization, renovation and repair."
Higher ed: $40 million.
Early childhood programs: $23 million, including $6 million for Head Start.
Community services: $6 million.
Seniors: $7 million.
Health care: $5 million.
State fiscal stabilization: $419 million.
Employment and training: $16 million.
Justice Assistance Grant funding: $46 million.
Relief for jobless workers: $25 a week increase in unemployment benefits (70,000 workers eligible); plus the emergency unemployment compensation program (14,000 workers eligible).

Those categories are a little vague, eh?

Dig a little deeper, and the info packet says Santa Fe Public Schools stands to gain about $7 million, including $3.6 million for construction. Not much, considering SFPS is asking voters next week to cough up $160 million in a bond measure.
A reporter wondered what that "state fiscal stabilization" was all about. Denish said it was a "Band-Aid" to cover some of New Mexico's budget deficit and prevent cuts. It's hard to see how that counts as "stimulus," when it doesn't add anything, only keeps the situation from getting worse. Denish and Luján seem to grasp that.
"This is a first step," Luján said.
"The need is far greater than any amount of money we're getting here in New Mexico," Denish said.
Indeed.
They talked a lot about "green jobs" and the "new energy economy." The stimulus bill includes tax incentives for energy conservation and money to modernize the nation's aging electricity grid.
I asked how this could be called a "green" stimulus package when it gives 10 times as much money to highways as it does to transit. (For perspective, the $24 million dollars set aside for transit would pay for less than 10 miles of new track for the Rail Runner.)
"We're going to see a doubling of renewable energy generation," Luján said.
Denish added: "I think we've never been more challenged, but we've never had a greater opportunity to move with the green-collar jobs."

 

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