Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

NM Reps to put $34 million in earmarks around their districts next year

The U.S. Capitol Building on June 01, 2023 in Washington, DC. Congress faces a tight deadline to pass the budget, which may face threats of a shutdown, which could delay the earmarked projects inside agency budgets. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

New Mexico’s representatives are poised to give more than $34 million directly to projects in and around their districts as part of next year’s budgets for federal agencies.

But the funds will not be disbursed until Congress passes the budget, which faces hurdles as members of the far-right Freedom Caucus have threatened a government shutdown.

Congress must pass 12 bills with the budgets of federal agencies by the deadline of Sept. 30, for the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1. Currently out of session, lawmakers would just have 12 days to pass legislation before the deadline.

There is a stopgap measure, called a continuing resolution, which keeps agencies funded at the same level as last year, until a new budget can be passed. A continuing resolution which was floated by leadership Wednesday, NBC News reported.

Congress brought back earmarks. Now they’re one more point of drama in a divided House.

As a part of next year’s budget, New Mexico’s representatives earmarked more than $34 million. Each representative was limited to 15 projects.

The appropriations committee, chaired by republican Rep. Kay Granger from Texas, released copies of 12 bills, including earmarks.

No New Mexico representatives are on the appropriations committee.

The States Newsroom DC Bureau reported that Republican House members have 62% of the earmarked fund – nearly $7.4 billion – while allocating about 38% to Democratic projects at just under $2.8 billion.

Republican members said, they are not short-changing Democratic requests, since that was the split used when Democrats held the majority in the House. Many Democratic earmark requests were capped at $1 million and cut by 41% on average, while Republican earmark request cuts averaged around 18% with a $6 million cap, said Rep. David Trone (D-Md) in a committee debate in June.

This is the third year Congress is allowing for direct spending in districts, after a decades-long hiatus. Earmarks were banned in 2011 when House Speaker John Boehner eliminated the practice after years of scandals.

In 2021, earmarks were revived by House Democrats, with additional guardrails and rules.

The process is now called Community Project Funding in the House and Congressionally Directed Spending in the Senate.

Lawmakers must submit letters saying there is no personal gain by themselves or a family member. Recipients of the funding cannot be for-profit entities, but instead by either governments or nonprofits.

In fiscal year 2022, New Mexico received more than $185 million for 103 projects from both chambers, a report from the U.S Government Accountability Office, as earmark spending totaled $9 billion.

If the budget is passed, federal agencies would reach out to projects within 30-60 days to administer funding. Based on which federal agency is funding the project, local entities may still have to pay a certain percentage of the project to qualify for the money.


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