New Mexico Has Plenty of Room to Right-Size

The cutting’s about to begin.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Department of Health and Department of Cultural Affairs “will be among the agencies hit hardest by budget cuts that take effect next month.”

“If we had our choice, we would not be doing this,” harrumphed a Department of Health spokesman, whining about cutting 6 percent in contract costs, due to “the loss of about $12.5 million in state funding in the coming year, from $304.4 million to $292.9 million.”

The Department of Cultural Affairs is planning to lay off 11 employees, and will “leave vacant staff positions open, freeze noncritical contracts and trim the schedules of at least some museums and historic sites.”

But bureaucrats’ grumbling aside, it’s worth noting that New Mexico is, unquestionably, the biggest-spending state in the Southwest. Here’s a graph of per capita spending, in 2013, for the region’s six states:


The expenditure data are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of State Government Finances. They include every penny the states spent — on schools, highways, prisons, Medicaid, food stamps, subsidized housing, corporate welfare, debt service, quasi-government entities, etc. (Beware New Mexico’s “general fund” figure, which excludes many categories of spending, as well as the revenues received from the federal treasury.)

With the Land of Enchantment’s economy stuck in neutral, and the future of oil-and-gas production anyone’s guess, it’s all but certain that more austerity┬álies ahead. The Foundation looks forward to weighing in on what additional cuts need to be made to the fiscal 2017 budget.