The four Democratic members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. have joined Republican Steve Pearce in urging prompt payment to the state of $69.9 million that comes from an oil and gas lease sale near Roswell.
“Delayed receipt of these funds could worsen the state’s already precarious financial position, adding to the significant uncertainty of New Mexico’s current economic forecast,” the Democrats wrote in a Wednesday letter to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
“Furthermore, without this or other payments the state is counting on, New Mexico could end the fiscal year with negative reserves, which would violate the state constitution and could trigger extreme action,” they wrote.
U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Luján asked the BLM to “complete the leasing process as expeditiously as possible, and promptly provide payment to the state of New Mexico.”
The most recent analysis projects the state will end its current fiscal year on June 30 with $102 million in the bank — and that analysis is fluid. It’s also dependent on receiving the nearly $70 million from the BLM.
The money the state would receive if the leases go through comes from a $146 million oil and gas lease sale near Roswell in September. BLM spokeswoman Donna Hummel said last week that the agency had completed its environmental assessments of the protests filed by Wild Earth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity. There are “a couple more layers of review” by other federal agencies, but right now it looks as though the leases will be finalized and the state will receive its money by June, Hummel said.
Still, Hummel reiterated Friday that the formal process is ongoing and there’s not yet certainty the payment will come through.
On Tuesday, Rep. Pearce sent his own letter to the BLM urging prompt payment to the state. And in a news release, Pearce said the state’s “children, elderly, disabled, as well as our health and education programs are being held hostage by these professional lawyer activists groups.”
“Through no fault of its own, the BLM is forced to delay payment of these funds,” Pearce said. “As a result, this will have a major impact on the stability and future of New Mexico’s budget.”