ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Roadwork, schools, and clean water are all things tax dollars pay for but a new report found billions in taxpayer money in New Mexico is just sitting there, not being spent.
The 25-page report titled ‘Money on the Sidelines,’ goes through each state agency’s budget and what they didn’t spend. According to State Auditor, Tim Keller, that number is huge.
The report done by the State Auditor’s Government Accountability Office shows state agencies have $4.5 billion sitting on the sidelines.
“I mean it really is kind of tucked away in every corner of the state, but when you add it up, it’s quite a big number,” Keller said.
New Mexico has had a hard time recovering from the recession. But the report shows more than $2 billion for things like road work and infrastructure wasn’t spent by state agencies. Neither was $42 million in education funds, or more than $700 million for water projects. KRQE News 13 asked Keller why he believes the money hasn’t been spent.
“There’s a myriad of reasons why, and you really actually have to go to each agency and sort of inquire,” Keller responded. “In general, there’s lots of bureaucratic reasons, you know, waiting on something else, waiting on another agency, or permitting, things like this.”
Keller said the answer depends on each state agency, and what lawmakers decide to do with taxpayer dollars. The state budget is roughly $6 billion. Money is dedicated for projects. So, $4.5 billion unspent is a lot.
“Our first step is really just to shine a light on the issue. No one’s ever really looked at this before,” Keller said.
However, Keller said it’s not his job to tell state agencies what to do next.
“We want to put the dollars out there and say look, New Mexicans, taxpayers, these are where your tax dollars are sitting,” said Keller.
Now that the numbers are crunched, it’s up to lawmakers to spend or save.
“But when we say money is tight, we can’t afford this road improvement or this new school, that is right at the core of this issue about unspent fund balances,” Keller said.
The State Auditors Office plans to track the state’s spending each year using the public data. Keller said he also wants to do the same thing with city and county budgets.
REPORT HIGHLIGHTS: (shown on page 4 of the report)
- $4.5 billion of unspent public dollars in the State of New Mexico were spread across 737 different accounts throughout state agencies and affiliated entities, excluding fiduciary funds (permanent and pension funds).
- Of the $4.5 billion in unspent dollars, almost $2 billion resided in unspent capital infrastructure funds, including approximately $1.2 billion in incomplete capital outlay projects and $1 billion in infrastructure funds for road and water projects primarily in the New Mexico Finance Authority and the Environment Department.
- $738 million was unspent for water projects in various state agencies’ funds.
- $503 million was unspent for restricted special revenue spread across more than 260 different funds ranging from the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) to Medicaid fund surpluses.
- $42 million was unspent for education projects within funds at the Public Education Department and the Public School Facilities Authority.
- Approximately $30 million was unspent for assigned and unassigned balances in state agencies’ operational general funds.