Time for a Spend-A-Thon?

“New money”! It’s the magical phrase that lawmakers in Santa Fe yearn to hear at the start of every legislation session.

When revenucrats predict a surplus for the coming fiscal year, all sorts of ideas are bandied about for ways to spend the bucks. This year the new-money estimate is $292.3 million, and predictably, “return it back to the taxpayers” isn’t under consideration. More Medicaid subsidies, raises for “public servants,” increased prison expenditures, “early childhood education” — it’s all on the table.

Given the state’s budget woes in the last few years, a half-inch of slack might be extended to pols with the urge to spend away. But there’s a problem with the theory that New Mexico has faced brutal “austerity” in recent years.

It isn’t true.

As the chart below shows, adjusted for population and inflation, the state’s total expenditures — including revenue supplied from Washington — grew by 21.6 percent between the 2006 and 2016 fiscal years. (We have yet to get the final numbers for the 2017 fiscal year.)

Sources: New Mexico comprehensive annual financial reports, U.S. Census Bureau

So contrary to the narrative that “cuts” in “public investments” have made life in New Mexico unbearably unlivable, the state’s expenditures continued to climb during — and after — the Great Recession. Maybe spending every penny that comes the legislature’s way isn’t the solution to the Land of Enchantment’s many woes?

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One Reply to “Time for a Spend-A-Thon?”

  1. Have they ever thought of saving some of it? I was taught to save a little of a “wind-fall” for times that are lean. Seems the majority of those “dunderheads” in Santa Fe want to flush it away.

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