Recently, the Rio Grande Foundation published a policy paper outlining more than $280 million in specific spending cuts designed to help Governor Martinez and legislators close New Mexico’s budget deficit.
Then, throughout December, we gave average New Mexicans a chance to weigh in on which cuts they supported and how strongly they wanted to see the cuts made. Survey respondents were asked to rank their preferred cuts on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the strongest desire to see an item cut). More than 2,000 people took the opportunity to weigh in and the results are as follows:
• Saving $20 million annually by cutting the state work force by 2,000 was the most strongly supported with a rating average of 8.08;
• Saving $60 million annually by repealing SB 33 which increased the costs of public works projects around New Mexico followed close behind with an average rating of 7.91;
• Saving $6.4 million by diverting probationers and parolees who are revoked for technical violations of their supervision, not new offenses, from prison, scored 7.79;
• Diverting drug possession offenders from prison at a savings of $13 million garnered a score of 7.73;
• Saving $30 million by capping the cost of New Mexico’s 25% reimbursement for films made in the state scored 7.34;
• Shutting down the Rail Runner at a savings of $20 million annually scored 6.44; and
• The only budget cut items that scored below 5 were shutting down half of New Mexico’s branch campuses with a score of 4.81 and raising tuition to the national average which scored 4.71.
Said Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing of the results, “While the results of this survey are not scientific in the polling sense, 2,000 New Mexicans inherently represents a reasonable cross-section of the public in terms of their beliefs on these important issues. The survey generated interest far beyond the conservative community with a public campaign by people at UNM Taos to name just one organized effort to sway results.”
Concluded Gessing, “Even if 100% of our spending cut proposals were enacted, Governor Martinez would still have to come up with more cuts to close the $400 million budget hole. Nonetheless, we hope that she will carefully analyze these results as she begins the difficult task of placing the state budget on a sustainable path.