State departments say tighter budgets will have impact on environment, services

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Multiple state departments, in charge of taking care of the environment, have been pleading with lawmakers for more money.

The departments believe several things are at risk if they don’t get the proper funding:

  • Clean air and water regulation
  • State parks services
  • Food manufacturing safety
  • Workplace safety
  • Waste management

New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) Cabinet Secretary James Kenney believes his department is in "crisis mode."

"Our department is funded pretty inadequately," he said.

Kenney said the department has been understaffed for years.

"It really comes down to how much do you value clean air, the ability to breathe," he said. "How much do you value the water that comes out of your faucet or even access to water.”

Kenney contends that his workers want to do more, but they have to make tough decisions about which communities’ problems they can tackle.

"New Mexicans should expect a lot out of this department, except this department can’t deliver on the expectations of New Mexicans," he said.

Kenney says a group of three workers is responsible for checking more than 2,500 air-emitting sources, ideally each year, because there aren’t more people to do the job.

The budgets for multiple departments have been cut by about 30% over the last decade.

They want to return to those funding levels, which is estimated at $7 million.

Environmental advocacy group support the funding request.

Brittany Fallon, policy director for New Mexico Wild, said the state parks budget has also been cut, declining over the last three decades.

"When state parks reopened in the fall, people flocked to them only to find that they didn’t have the facilities and didn’t have the staff to meet the needs of New Mexicans,” she said.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also believes funding should be increased.

However, state lawmakers are hesitant to move forward with a big budget boost.

The debate is going on during the legislative session. The Senate Finance Committee heard from the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD).

Last week, the House Appropriations and Finance Committee heard similar comments, including from Kenney.

However, the current plan would keep budgets mostly in-line with previous years.