Oil and gas industry bringing billions to New Mexico in the next year

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Legislative Finance Committee is projecting an influx of cash for the next few years. In fact, $3.5 billion is expected to be coming into the state this upcoming budget year.

Some of the money is going into “rainy day” funds, but lawmakers already have some ideas on how they want to spend the rest. They are ready to discuss everything from tax reform to health care during the upcoming legislative session.

While some of the money will be set aside for permanent funds, like the Early Childhood Trust Fund, state Sen. Pat Woods says these programs are overfunded and hopes to put more money in future funds.

“We have so much money in the program right now that we are not able to, we are about to the maximum, of what we can employ for state government,” said Woods, a Republican who represents Curry, Quay, and Union counties. “We have a lot of unfilled vacancies in state government, but we are not having any luck filling them – therefore we can’t produce much more programs.”

With the extra money in the budget, New Mexico House Republican Minority Leader Ryan Lane wants to tackle tax reform.

“I think we need to take a hard look as legislators as to why are personal income taxes are so high when we have such a surplus,” Lane said. “I think we should tackle some comprehensive tax legislation to really put more money back into our new Mexico working-class taxpayer pockets.”

Higher education was a big focus for state Democrats. They say this is a unique opportunity to fund education while also saving for future years, when the budget may not be as big.

“Now we are able to hold state budgets at a certain level, hold education across the board, keep in place opportunity scholarships which is full education, free education,” said state Sen. George K. Muñoz, a Democrat who represents Cibola, McKinley, and San Juan counties. “That is what it really enables us to do.”

State Rep. Nathan Small, a Democrat representing Doña Ana County, agreed that the state should invest in education, as well as public safety and infrastructure. He also brought up improving behavioral health care in the state.

“Substance use treatment, investments in health care, investments to expand reimbursement, so that there are more health care professionals who can see and serve New Mexicans,” Small said.