The state auditor released a report Friday showing about $4 billion is sitting around across the state unspent—but it’s unclear whether that money could help with the current budget shortfall vexing lawmakers in Santa Fe.
More than $1 billion dollars was supposed to be spent on infrastructure projects like roads and schools. Half a billion was earmarked for water projects, airports and help for small businesses. But the checks just never got written.
Auditor Tim Keller, a Democrat, said some money stayed in the bank because the state needed to maintain reserves or heed insurance and bonding requirements. Other projects ran into uncontrollable delays. He said Republican Gov. Susana Martinez should get that money moving to create jobs and build important infrastructure.
But Republican Senate leader Stuart Ingle said releasing the unspent funds wouldn't make a difference in the current budget situation.
"It’s always easy from the outside to say, ‘Oh, all this is not being used we can just go grab this’. And that’s not the case. It’s generally speaking 100 percent allocated to something," Ingle said.
The auditor’s report recommends that the state create a special office to track projects and make sure the money is being spent the way lawmakers intended.
According to the auditor's office, unspent money comes from several funds, including:
- Capital Projects Funds total $1.2 billion (including bonds for building roads and schools)
- Executive Branch Special Revenue Funds total $501 million (including job training and Gila River project funds)
- Business and Enterprise Funds total $1.4 billion (including insurance and home lending funds)
- Revolving Loan and Grant Funds total $574 million (including water facilities, airports and help for small businesses)
- Stagnant Funds - accounts with balances that only changed by 1 percent or less - total $101 million, including over $42 million at the New Mexico Environment Department)
- Water-Related Funds total $230 million are scattered throughout state agencies.
Check out all of the content from our People, Power and Democracy project. It's a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico In Depth, New Mexico PBS and the New Mexico News Port at UNM. Funding for the project comes from the Thornburg Foundation.