There’s no way to sugarcoat the revised revenue estimates coming out of Santa Fe. That glee we’ve been experiencing at the gas pump has a definite downside in a state that depends heavily on oil and gas revenue. New revenue estimates have been cut nearly in half.
Prices for oil and gas have gone down steadily since shortly after the last revenue estimate in late-August, when legislators heard they had as much as $285 million in new money to help build the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. Today, Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) Tom Clifford told the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) the revised projection is now closer to $141 million in new money with a projected budget of $6.29 billion. That, says Clifford, is still enough to prioritize and meet the highest needs of the state.
Reserves would still be in the 10 percent range, which will be crucial if energy prices continue to plummet. Clifford also projects $320 million in bonding capacity, with approximately $231 million available for new legislative capital projects.
On a positive note, housing and the retail sector continue to rebound and the state is seeing job growth it has not seen in some time, now ranking 34th in the nation up from last year’s 47th place.
When asked what the administration plans to do to diversify the economy so the state is not so dependent on oil and gas, Clifford mentioned funding the Technology Research Collaborative (in which UNM has a big stake) and funding more research chairs in technology as well as working to expand the health care workforce.
Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith (D-Deming) warned that state agencies had best start adjusting their budgets and expectations downward.