New Mexico is swimming in cash. It's almost all from the oil boom in the southeastern part of the state, though, so it's as fleeting as young love. But boy, is it intense. The state is on track to collect about $1 billion more than it did last year, and has even more "new money" to spend above the $6.2 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts in July. Lawmakers will spend, but they also have to save for lean years.
In July, Santa Fe Judge Sarah Singleton issued an order in a lawsuit that said the state has been failing to provide a sufficient education for all its students. The implications are profound. Lawmakers expect to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more for public education. Expect heated debate over how much to spend, how quickly to spend it, and how to ensure the state will have that money in future years.
Has the time come for recreational cannabis in New Mexico? Maybe. But it might also take another year for the new governor to get comfortable with the protections she's said she wants before New Mexico joins the list of states that have legalized marijuana use. Such a program could pump tens of millions of dollars, if not more, into state accounts. Lujan Grisham has said she doesn't want to move too fast.
San Juan Generating Station
This massive, complex bill is ostensibly about how PNM gets to charge customers for years of lost revenue at the San Juan Generating Station, which is scheduled to close in 2022. It will take a nearby coal mine with it when it goes, and people in the Four Corners are panicking about 600-700 lost jobs, many of which approach six figures. But it's also about how much renewable energy the state will demand PNM produce going forward.
New Mexico's two public pensions have about $14 billion more in obligations than they do in anticipated income. Add retiree health care, and that number tops $18 billion. The unfunded liability, as it's called, is so bad that bond rating agencies have dinged New Mexico, making it more expensive for the state to pay for construction projects and other big-ticket items. With surplus money on hand, both public employees and educators will be watching the retirement fix.
When Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt (remember him?) took office in 2017, they axed an Obama-era rule requiring oil and gas drillers to recapture methane they'd previously been either venting into the atmosphere or burning off. Lujan Grisham has said she wants to reinstate the rule for New Mexico. Industry insiders wonder what other restrictions she has in store, but even some conservative voices have decried the Wild West nature of drilling in the state.