Report: New Mexico Should Invest in Public Infrastructure to Build a Strong Economy
Commentary: In New Mexico, as in most states across the nation, investment in public infrastructure remains at lower levels than it did in 2002, even as the economy has rebounded after the recession. That’s according to a new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Lawmakers can fix this by prioritizing new and increased investments in transportation, public buildings, water treatment systems, and other forms of vital infrastructure in order to build a strong economy now and in the future.
“This report makes it clear that while the Legislature and Governor were wise to invest some of the state’s oil-boom revenue surplus in building our infrastructure, we still have a long way to go,” said James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “New Mexico must find a way to significantly increase stable, sustainable revenues in order to make the long-term infrastructure investments that supports a 21st century economy.”
Federal infrastructure investment has fallen by half over the last 35 years. This has left more of the cost to state and local governments, but today state and local infrastructure spending as a share of Gross Domestic Product is lower than it has been since the 1950s. And in New Mexico, total capital spending on infrastructure as a share of state GDP has fallen by 0.16 percentage points between 2002 and 2016.
Across the nation, years of neglect have resulted in crumbling roads, bridges in need of repair, inadequate public transport, outdated school buildings, and other critical infrastructure needs. In its most recent report card on the condition of America’s infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure a D+ or “poor” rating.
The Civil Engineers noted that New Mexico has serious challenges as well. For example, driving on roads in need of repair in New Mexico costs drivers an average of $594 each per year, and 6.5 percent of our bridges are rated structurally deficient. Our school buildings need an estimated $407 million in repairs. Drinking water needs in New Mexico are an estimated $1.16 billion, and wastewater needs total $320 million.
“Every state needs infrastructure improvements in order to maintain functioning public services and build a strong economy. But rather than investing in infrastructure, many states have cut taxes or offered corporate subsidies in a misguided approach to boosting economic growth,” said Elizabeth McNichol, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of the report. “This pattern of neglect by states has serious consequences for the nation’s growth and quality of life as roads crumble, school buildings become obsolete, and outdated facilities jeopardize public health.”
New Mexico Voices for Children is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating for policies to improve the health and well-being of New Mexico's children, families and communities.