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Governor outlines some top budget priorities

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Because of the current oil and gas boom and the thriving southeastern New Mexico energy industry, the state is in a good position to begin investing in economic diversity, solving past financial difficulties and increasing its state budget reserves, said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

While attending Saturday’s State Government in Your Community event at ENMU-R, the Democratic leader who was elected to office in 2018, was asked a question about her views on the role of the oil and gas industry and her priorities for funding as the next session of the New Mexico Legislature draws nearer.

The session is due to begin Jan. 21, and Lujan Grisham’s administration has presented a budget that calls a little less than $1 billion in recurring and non-recurring expenditures.

“We are going to be the only state in the nation that can effectively have the oil and gas industry do their work, provide revenue to the state, but also provide the climate-change requirements that save not only the planet but also make a difference in a drought-ridden state like New Mexico,” she said. “We are going to do both at the same time.”

She explained that her administration is working with the industry to come to an agreement regarding methane emissions, a major source of global-warming greenhouse gases, and that she believes she will have more bipartisan support this year for some of her fiscal goals, including boosting the general fund reserves.

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“We are going to make sure that we get our early education fund established so that you put money away and you use that money judiciously each year,” she said. “We are going to start solving some of our huge liabilities that prevent us from having the right kind of economic future: pension reform, something called impact aid, where you don’t spend money on rural, low-income school districts. This is a way that one-time spending can solve these problems and shore up New Mexicans for decades to come. And lastly, how about if we have more money in reserves, a bigger, better, broader state savings account?”

She said she wants at least a 25% general fund reserve, which she said will improve the state’s bond rating, will allow for economic diversification and will provide a more secure financial future for the state.

“It is really important to get to at least 25% just set aside that you can’t be spending,” she said. “It shows we are ready for economic downturns, reinvestments and being responsible with the revenues coming in.”