Gov. Susana Martinez said Friday the federal government shutdown will hurt New Mexico worse than neighboring states, and blamed congressional Republicans and Democrats alike for failing to reach a resolution.
“There’s plenty of blame on both sides,” the Republican governor said in an interview in Albuquerque. “They are digging their heels in on both sides. They need to quit pointing the finger and just get to work.”
The shutdown began Tuesday after Congress failed to reach an agreement on a continuing resolution to extend previously approved federal government spending into the fiscal year that started Oct. 1. House Republicans pushed for the spending bill to cut funding for the Affordable Care Act, an effort that failed in the Democratic-controlled Senate, beginning the impasse.
Martinez declined to say whether she thinks Congress should pass a continuing budget resolution that omits all cuts to Obamacare or whether she would back changes to health care spending before government can be reopened.
Nationally, the shutdown has resulted in the unpaid furlough of about 800,000 federal employees and contract workers deemed nonessential. Members of the military and other critical federal workers, such as TSA airport security guards, have remained on the job but some are working without pay.
Martinez said members of Congress should consider how the furloughs are affecting people outside Washington, “instead of holing themselves up and digging their heels in like they are.”
“Bottom line: The federal government needs to start to get their act in gear, and they need to look at the governors how we balance our budget every year,” Martinez said.
“They don’t seem to comprehend what an impact that can have on the different states in different ways,” the governor said, referring to Washington politicians.
New Mexico historically has had a high rate of government employment, and military and federal agencies, such as the departments of Energy, Interior, Agriculture and Homeland Security, are among major employers.
Meanwhile, Albuquerque ranks 17th nationwide for its percentage of workers on federal and military payrolls, according to The Washington Post. Its roughly 21,000 federal workers make up about 5.6 percent of the city’s total workforce, although it is unclear how many of those 21,000 workers have been furloughed.
The federal Bureau of Land Management temporarily halted processing drilling permit applications, leading to concern about a possible slowdown in New Mexico’s oil and gas industries. Both are major contributors to the state’s economy.
New Mexico state government can go several weeks using budget reserves to replace stalled federal funds intended to support state functions, Martinez said.
But the governor expressed concern that if the shutdown drags out for several weeks, New Mexico could be hit harder than neighboring states that rely less on federal funds.
Michael O’Donnell, a research scientist with the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said it’s unclear whether furloughed government workers already have scaled back their spending and hurt the broader local economy. However, he said, if the federal government shutdown extends several weeks, it’s reasonable to expect furloughed workers will cut back.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to say I would predict a recession for the state, and I wouldn’t go so far as to say I would expect it to contribute to harm that would be insurmountable for us to overcome, but I will say what’s going on at the national level, with our already-fragile state economy, cannot be good.”
Martinez said her administration has no plans to chip in to fund components of the federal government’s work in New Mexico, such as the National Park Service. The park service has closed the state’s 11 national parks and monuments.
“Congress has to start doing the people’s work, and it’s not each state’s responsibility to do the federal government’s work. It just isn’t,” she said.