In a state with thousands of miles of roads in less than excellent condition, a legislative committee is urging a substantial funding commitment to improving them.
The New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee, a nonpartisan service agency providing fiscal research for the state’s lawmakers, is recommending that up to $400 million be appropriated during the current 2019 legislative session on road construction and upgrading.
In its report sent to state lawmakers, the committee notes that of that $400 million, $250 million could be used for “major investment projects to be specified by legislators, with priority given to projects with available matching funds.”
The committee additionally notes that it came to its conclusion after receiving input from the state’s Department of Transportation, adding that the DOT “provided suggestions for project selection based on district needs crucial for economic development, system maintenance, and safety improvement.”
“The focus of these projects is moving goods more efficiently to grow the economy,” the committee adds.
The committee has specifically called attention to some $98 million in projects that are already on the DOT’s transportation improvement list, along with another $53 million for New Mexico’s local government road fund.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has proposed an equally ambitious approach to fixing the state’s roads, but has called for a smaller $300 million in funding.
Both the Governor and legislators have pointed to what has been described as a temporary windfall due to oil and gas exploration revenue in the state, a figure thought to be in excess of $1 billion.
It has also been suggested that the state’s current gas tax, revenues of which would target future road projects, should be increased from its current 17 cents to 27 cents a gallon.
The last time that tax was increased was more than 25 years ago.
By Garry Boulard
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