For years, Colorado and New Mexico have engaged in a heated debate over which state leads when it comes to food, culture, and, of course, green chile. As New Mexicans, we know first-hand that nothing beats our state traditions, although our Southwestern neighbors like Colorado disagree. We have another opportunity to put New Mexico ahead of Colorado this legislative session – if our state leaders seize it.
In 2022, Congress passed a slate of policies, like the Inflation Reduction Act, earmarking billions of dollars to support state investment in renewable energy, infrastructure improvements, land and water protection, and more. These resources are now available through a highly competitive grant process. States, counties, and communities can apply for the funds, but their proposals are now considered against those from other states.
One of the best things we can do to give New Mexico communities a leg-up in this process is to double down on the state’s commitment. Creating a state matching fund signals to the federal government that the projects our communities apply for are so essential that New Mexico will match federal investment, placing our application at the front of the pack. Some grant applications also require a state match. Without it, we leave millions of dollars on the table.
Other states have already created match funds in an attempt to maximize federal dollar investments. Minnesota passed legislation in 2023 creating a $100 million match fund, and Colorado, our friendly rival, adopted an $80 million state fund in 2022. New Mexico now has an opportunity to do the same through the bipartisan-sponsored House Bill 177 – State Match Fund. HB 177 calls for creating a $100 million fund to provide a state match for federal grants, giving our state agencies and programs access to millions of dollars in federal funding without creating more burdens for their hard-working staff.
If this bill passes, imagine the possibilities for our communities. A local soil and water district could support farmers and ranchers working with the USDA to implement conservation practices on their lands. A town could add trails and amenities to neighborhood parks. A rural health center could participate in a pilot project in innovative healthcare delivery. A community ditch could improve its head gates and turnouts, managing the water more efficiently for its members.
However, to make this a reality, New Mexico must be at least as competitive as Colorado to leverage the most funding possible for our state. The state budget bill, House Bill 2, just passed the House with only $50 million allocated for the state matching program. This is dramatically less than what House Bill 177 calls for and $30 million less than Colorado. We can do better.
The Legislature must restore HB 177 to its original full funding to not only unlock opportunities for communities across the state but to keep the competition at bay with our neighbor to the north. Colorado already thinks its chile is better than New Mexico’s – we can’t let their state matching fund triumph over ours.