Background information and update:
The New Mexico State Legislature will meet for a special session beginning on June 18, 2020. This is necessary to balance the budget due to the collapse of the oil and gas market partially caused by the Coronavirus. In the 2020 regular session the state set aside reserves to equal 25% of the overall budget for 2020. The New Mexico Budget was put together based on a $50.00 per barrel price of oil. Currently the price of oil is between $36.00-$37.00 per barrel. Therefore, there is a gap in revenue for the state of New Mexico. The gap goes back and forth between about $1.7 and $2.0 billion dollars. The legislators are working with a $2.0 billion-dollar shortfall assumption. New Mexico is heavily dependent on oil and gas. In fact, somewhere between 33 and 36 percent of New Mexico’s budget is directly dependent on the price of oil. The estimates go between 60 – 78% of New Mexico’s budget is indirectly tied to the oil and gas industry. The oil and gas and other extractive industries are highly volatile and are New Mexico’s primary revenue streams.
2020 Special Session Roundup
During the special session there were 8 bills that were sent to the Governor’s office for signature. The special session was initially called to resolve the budget shortfall resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic and the downturn of the oil and gas industry (HB1, SB5), as well as helping out New Mexico small businesses (SB3) and New Mexico taxpayers (HB6). The Governor also put ‘on the call’ issues addressing the November 2020 General Election (SB4), establishing a civil rights commission (HB5), and a bill requiring law enforcement officers to wear body cameras (SB8).
House Bill 1: This was the budget solvency bill and the main reason for the special session New Mexico faces a $2-2.5 billion-dollar shortfall. New Mexico has reserves of 25% of the state budget putting it in the top 4 in the nation for budget reserves. We also have several other reserve funds from which to draw upon to help the government continue to function. The proposed budget sent to the Governor would shave department budgets from 2-3%, plus some additional funding based on Federal funds coming in. The goal was to have budgets continue to be funded over the 2020 amounts with leveraged Federal funding. On June 30th the Governor signed the budget into law and line item vetoed some of the cuts to education, economic development, secretary of state for elections, and the state engineer. The reserves now stand at 11.3% while the reserves stood at 12% after the state match. In addition, oil prices have risen to around $40.00 per barrel. The state budgeted for $50.00 per barrel, but the cost per barrel actually went negative for a few days, so the budget may be more intact than previously thought. The intent of this bill was to get the state to January where the legislators would have a longer period of time to reassess the budget, and where New Mexico stands at that time.
House Bill 5: This bill establishes a nine-member civil rights commission- that by Mid November recommend legal changes aimed at protecting constitutional rights. New Mexico is one of only a few states that does not have a civil rights commission. While most states civil rights commission is a permanent commission, New Mexico is only proposing that this commission remain intact until June 2021 after the 2021 legislative session. The Governor signed this bill into law on June 26.
House Bill 6: This bill waives some of the tax penalties that would accrue during the pandemic and allows for increased temporary state payments to help New Mexico cities and counties if Federal funding does not become available. However, Congress will be taking up an additional aid package after their July 4th recess. Our Congressional delegation indicates that there should be more funding for state and local governments in the new package. This bill was signed by the Governor on June 29th.
Senate Bill 3: This is a substantial assistance package and is setting up a small business/nonprofit/local government loan program. Applications for these loans will be handled through local banks. These loans are for up to $75,000.00. The first three years these loan payments would be interest only, and the interest rate is indexed at ½ of the prime interest rates. This bill passed with broad bipartisan support. This bill has not yet been signed by the Governor, but I have been assured that she will sign the bill.
Senate Bill 4: This bill enacts temporary changes for the 2020 November General Election. These changes include changes on tribal lands to allow for voting at different polling places, based on easiest access. This bill also makes provisions for requesting absentee ballots without having a qualifying reason for requesting an absentee ballot on a county by county basis. One of the more controversial provisions of this bill is that it allows Independent and declined to state voters to request one of the major party ballots during the primary election. The Independent and declined to state voters would then be registered for whichever party based on their ballot request. The Speaker of the House Brian Egoff has indicated that there will be a bill in the 2021 legislature to strike this provision of the bill. This was signed by the Governor on June 26.
Senate Bill 5: This bill is a part of the budget cuts and cancels certain capital outlay and road projects considered to be stalled by the agencies administering them. This will result in an estimated $141 million dollars in savings. This bill was signed by the Governor on June 26
Senate Bill 8: This bill requires that law enforcement officers wear body cameras. Twenty two of the thirty-three New Mexico counties and most large cities are currently using body cameras, so this would apply to those police and sheriff departments not already using body cameras. This bill also requires that the counties and cities develop their own rules for use of body cameras in the individual jurisdictions. This bill has not been signed by the Governor yet, but this is a bill that she requested be put on in the special session so she will probably sign the bill.