Report: NM Among Worst States on Long-Term Budget Planning

STATE News:

ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico lacks key, proven budget-planning tools that would help it build an attractive business climate, make government more effective, and weather difficult economic times, according to a major new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

The report, “Budgeting for the Future,” ranks New Mexico 37th in the nation.

“New Mexico can and should do more long-term planning to help build a strong economy, cope with economic ups and downs, and improve government efficiency,” said James Jimenez, Director of Research, Policy and Advocacy Integration of New Mexico Voices for Children. “People across the political spectrum can agree that adopting proven, nonpartisan tools that allow our lawmakers to do so is in New Mexico’s best interest.”

The report ranks the states according to whether and how well they make use of ten key fiscal planning tools, which fall into three broad categories:

•    A map for the future: The state budget and accompanying documents should include a detailed roadmap of the budget’s immediate and future impacts on the state’s fiscal health. 

•    Professional and credible estimates: Standards and sufficient oversight are needed to guarantee that these analyses of the budget’s impacts are professional, credible, and prepared without political influence.

•    Ways to stay on course: Mechanisms should be in place to trigger any needed changes during the budget year, before too much damage is done.

Unlike most states, New Mexico does not produce an annual tax expenditure report, which would total up the cumulative cost of the many tax breaks enacted over the years. Such reports can help states determine if certain tax expenditures—credits, exemptions, and deductions—are costing more than expected and are having the intended effects. 

The Legislature has passed bills to require a tax expenditure budget three times in recent years, but all three were vetoed. The tax expenditure reports that were then created by executive order were incomplete. Legislation is under consideration in the current session that would place the requirement for a tax expenditure

report in the state constitution. To become law, it would require approval by the voters, but not the governor.

 New Mexico also got dinged on two measures relating to pensions—reviews of funding and debt levels, as well as pension oversight.

“Better planning encourages policymakers to take the long view, one that considers a state’s future workforce, population, and infrastructure needs,” said Elizabeth McNichol, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and co-author of the report.  “A state’s budget decisions today on services like education and infrastructure affect both the state and the nation for years to come.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ full report can be found at: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4085. 

A fact sheet for New Mexico is available here:  http://www.cbpp.org/files/2-4-14sfp-factsheets/NM.pdf

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