SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham testified before Congress on Thursday that New Mexico and other states need more financial help from the federal government to maintain essential services amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Budget cuts alone, she said, won’t be enough to help New Mexico withstand the economic damage triggered by the pandemic and a collapse in revenue from oil and gas production.
Testifying by video link, Lujan Grisham, a Democrat and former congresswoman, told the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services that New Mexico and other states are on the front lines — the “infantry,” as she put it — responding to the public health crisis. They are spending heavily on personal protective equipment, testing supplies and other costs associated with shifts in how they provide services while limiting transmission of the disease.
An economic downturn, the governor said, exacerbates the challenge.
“Cost-cutting measure will not be enough to weather the storm,” Lujan Grisham said. “An umbrella is not enough protection in a hurricane.”
Republican members of Congress opened the hearing by blasting it as a useless exercise that had no chance of resulting in the passage of actual legislation. Democrats hold a majority in the House while Republicans control the Senate.
U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package passed earlier this year already provided aid to states, which haven’t even spent all of the money yet. He suggested further aid would be better targeted to small businesses, not state governments.
New Mexico this year plans to tap about $750 million in federal stimulus funding and draw down reserves to keep its budget roughly flat at $7 billion. But it still must craft a budget for the year that begins next summer.