SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Day two of the special session in Santa Fe saw debate over how to spend a chunk of the more than $1 billion in federal stimulus money. There are proposals for attacking the homeless problem, expanding broadband, and major road projects.
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More than $142 million is slated for road infrastructure projects that come directly from the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s priority list, including some that have been delayed because of the lack of funding.
“Infrastructure is a good way to stimulate the economy because you get construction immediately, you get people hired immediately, you get taxes coming in immediately,” Appropriations and Finance Committee Chair and Rep. Patricia Lundstrom stated.
In Bernalillo County, that includes work on Bobby Foster Road from I-25 to Mesa del Sol; and on I-25 from Montgomery to Comanche. The rest of the bill includes more than $100 million for broadband across the state, plus tens of millions for affordable housing, helping the homeless and local food banks.
As for helping the state’s overwhelmed hospitals, about $15 million from this bill would go toward tackling our nursing shortage by allowing the state’s nursing programs to expand enrollment. Linda Siegle with the New Mexico Nurses Association spoke during a House committee meeting Tuesday afternoon. She appreciates the effort but calls it a drop in the bucket.
“When you need 6,600 new nurses and this $15 million over a couple years should lead us to about 1,500 new nurses, but if we have nurses leaving the profession then we’re still behind the eight ball,” Siegel explained.
She said they won’t ask for more funding in this special session, but may ask for one-time money in the upcoming 30-day session to get more equipment for nursing schools. This bill would have to get the sign-off from the House then the Senate before going to the governor’s desk for final approval.
HB 2 covers about $467 million of the American Rescue Plan funding. Lawmakers say they’ll discuss how to spend the rest of it during the regular session that starts in mid-January.