Silver City – Unused Federal dollars may help save critical New Mexico programs for children, seniors and veterans under a proposal from Senator Howie Morales (D-Catron, Grant, Socorro-28).
The Silver City Democrat met with Governor Susanna Martinez' staff and cabinet secretaries to explore the possible use of millions of dollars in unexpended American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for education programs for New Mexico Children. "Facing the current economy of the state and possible drastic cuts looming over vital programs," said Sen. Morales, "it is important to explore all areas where funds can be accessed to protect our state's most vulnerable citizens."
Currently, Department of Finance Administration figures show approximately $54 million of unexpended ARRA stimulus funds remain under the Governor's discretion. "It is important to the people of New Mexico," Sen. Morales said, "that we wisely use the remaining unspent funds." The Senator says those funds should be tapped to help keep programs such as child care, family services, protective services, early childhood and K-12 education, seniors, veterans and developmentally disabled programs as intact.
Sen. Morales said the funds were brought to light by the use of a onetime $10 million dollar appropriation for the Graduate New Mexico Program under the Public Education Department (PED). The program was intended to do outreach and enroll some 10,000 dropout students, but so far only 900 students have signed up for the Program according to Education Department statistics. Sen. Morales said, "My research and discussions with the school districts show the number is actually around 250. "Either way," said Senator Morales, "to still spend 10 million dollars is a clear misuse of these funds."
"Although I know the full $54 Million may not be available, it is my hope that we can explore how much of it can actually be redirected," the Senator said. According to Sen. Morales it's a way to save programs and protect individuals without additional taxes and cuts utilizing money that is already available. "I am confident Governor Martinez will see this and take action to make this a reality," said Sen. Morales.