Winter is officially here, which means that we are approaching the start of the 2024 legislative session. In the calm before the excitement in the Capitol, we’d like to share a look ahead at some of our legislative priorities for the upcoming 30-day budget session. Next year, our state legislators will be deciding on the fate of more than $3 billion in windfall revenue. You can trust that CVNM advocates will be at the Roundhouse fighting to ensure that we are investing in a more sustainable future by protecting our lands, air, water, and the health of our communities.
Funding for State Agencies and Programs: When the interim committee process began earlier this year, we honed in on the budgetary needs of our state. Coordinating with our allies, we continued building relationships with legislators working to facilitate discussions about the myriad issues facing us. Armed with those insights, we began crafting budgets to address those problems. One of our primary focuses was ensuring we allocated the necessary resources to our state programs and agencies.
It may come as no surprise that many departments within our state government are chronically underfunded. The Environment Department (NMED), Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD), and Outdoor Recreation Division (ORD) are just a few examples of agencies that rely on the budgetary process. Without adequate funding, they are unable to fulfill their missions, hire and retain expert staff, and hold polluters accountable while protecting our lands and people.
This year, we have the unique opportunity to set our state agencies and programs up for success. This way, we can be better equipped to implement long-term conservation and wildlife protection efforts, such as Governor Michael Lujan Grisham’s 30×30 Executive Order calling for New Mexico to protect 30% of its land and waters by 2030.
Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund (LOE): Enacted during the 2023 legislative session, the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund (LOE) was created to support statewide programs that help protect and restore our lands, water, wildlife, and cultural heritage. The LOE is not just one fund, but is split into two $50 million reserves – one to address the current backlog of needs under existing state programs and another to permanently support successful state initiatives. The latter fund is managed by the State Investment Council, and is designed so that interest compounds over time and is annually disbursed into existing state programs.
With enough capital upfront, the permanent fund will be a self-sustaining system. But, it’s not there yet. It’s critical that during the 2024 session we reach the $350 million investment minimum needed to ensure New Mexico always has funding it needs for expanding conservation, building climate resilience, and supporting healthy communities for generations to come. Doing so will allow the annual interest to deliver resources to all 33 counties and tribal communities while building resilience, restoration, and supporting healthy communities for generations to come.
Supporting the Strategic Water Reserve: During the 2023 legislative session, the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) received funding to advance the mission of the Strategic Water Reserve. The funding for the ISC is intended to support the reserve in purchasing and leasing water rights from willing sellers throughout the State. For the State to do its due diligence and have time to find willing sellers or lessees, the ISC needs more than a year to administer these funds appropriately, and the timeframe for using this funding must be adjusted accordingly.
The Strategic Water Reserve is an essential – and successful – tool that benefits communities and waterways, supports compact compliance requirements, and aids in protecting endangered species. As climate change continues and drought conditions persist across New Mexico, it is more important than ever that we continue to support the Strategic Water Reserve and ensure that the ISC is given the necessary time and resources to effectively meet its goals.
Creating State-led Water Protections: In May, the US Supreme Court gutted the Clean Water Act when it narrowed the Environmental Protection Agencies’ ability to enforce protections for our nation’s wetlands. As one of the few states that relies on federal protections, more than 90% of New Mexico’s waters could be left without protection following this devastating decision.
As New Mexicans, we must craft a response that ensures protections for our life-giving waters that are independent of federal actions. That’s why CVNM and our allies are supporting a state-led permitting program for surface water quality. Previous efforts laid some of the groundwork for this solution, but more investment is needed in order to make it a reality. An investment in this kind of program will give New Mexico the ability to monitor water quality and enforce protections for our state’s waterways.
This goal goes hand-in-hand with our call to increase funding for NMED. With additional appropriations, NMED can support a temporary enforcement program to protect surface water quality until the state permitting program can be implemented. In doing so, NMED can conduct a statewide analysis of wetland and stream connectivity to give us a better idea of how New Mexico’s unique hydrology has been affected by the Sackett decision and what protections are necessary moving forward. If you’d like to find out more about this issue check out nmwaters.org.
This is just a first look at some of the issues we will be advocating for this budgetary session. Undoubtedly, this session will hold surprises. There are efforts and proposals that are still taking shape as this newsletter goes to print. CVNM remains committed to protecting our people, air, land, and water and ensuring that our transition away from extractive industries is just and equitable. Throughout the session, as bills are introduced and allies seek our support, we will abide by these tenets and work toward reasonable compromise and informed solutions. As always, we will keep you updated via email on what’s happening at the Roundhouse. We must all work together to ensure that the 2024 session is productive in investing the record revenue in advancing the sustainability, equity, and health of New Mexican communities.
To stay current on CVNM’s legislative priorities, please keep an eye on your email inbox, follow us on social media, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.