Legislature 2020: Lawmakers consider funding for New Mexico’s roads

Politics - Government

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – State lawmakers are debating how to make sure New Mexico’s roads are safe and well maintained. So how much are they willing to spend on the problem this legislative session?

Last year, lawmakers spent hundreds of millions of dollars in new money on roads. Now, some lawmakers are hoping to see another big increase again this session.

“So if we could improve the roads here in New Mexico then we could improve investments, and we would see a gain all the way around,” said State Senator Gregg Fulfer, (R) Jal.

Funding for roads is one of the items you see many lawmakers agree on. New Mexico’s Department of Transportation’s base budget is roughly $900 million. Last session, they spent even more when Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and lawmakers signed off on a one time additional $450 million for roads from the General Fund.

This year, the governor wants around $200 million in one-time spending from the General Fund on roads. Senator John Arthur Smith, who oversees the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said although this one-time spending is helpful, the state needs another plan.

“I want a sustained effort, I don’t want a honeymoon or divorce road plans, I want a long term plan and I don’t want a political deal on roads,” said Sen. Smith, (D) Deming.

Senator Smith said old bond deals that were created decades ago to help with road construction has put New Mexico in a bind and hopes the state can finally pay off some of those long debts owed to contractors.

Wednesday in the Senate Transportation Committee meeting, NMDOT told lawmakers they’ve already seen a spike in revenue from the newly added excise tax, bringing in about $57 million. They said the money will help finish projects across the state, like Rio Bravo and I-25, as well as the roads down south.

The Department of Transportation sounded optimistic about their funding future, adding they expect funding increases from both that excise tax and and oil boom in the south. They also added they are concerned about filling job vacancies.

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