A $50 million fund to attract federal infrastructure matching funds through the Legislature

Feb. 7—While some bills have proven highly controversial this legislative session, one has overwhelming bipartisan support.

Legislation that would establish a $50 million state fund to help attract federal funds for infrastructure, water and clean energy projects received unanimous yes votes in two committees and the House.

Bill 177 now heads to the Senate, where its advocates hope to restore it to its original $100 million before it reaches the finish line.

The fund would help the state tap federal funds through the Inflation Reduction Act, Infrastructure Act and other programs, making money more accessible to disadvantaged communities that, otherwise couldn’t get it, proponents of the bill say.

Estimates vary depending on the pull effect of the state matching fund. Some say it could take away as much as $8 in federal money for every dollar the state contributes.

“There are a lot of exciting opportunities for New Mexico communities to get new resources for economic development, infrastructure and other things,” said Michael Leon Guerrero, economic sustainability advisor at the Center for Civic Policy. “The problem is that there are a number of barriers … particularly rural and tribal communities, to being able to access this money.”

These small communities generally don’t have the money to contribute to federal matching funds, Leon Guerrero said. And if they get federal funding, project costs often increase dramatically before the money arrives, he said.

Another barrier is that communities can’t afford to hire people to apply for federal grants and complete the process, Leon Guerrero said.

“HB 177 addresses all three of these issues,” he said.

Money from the two federal funding streams could be used for clean energy, roads, bridges, water systems, broadband and other improvements. The wide range of possible infrastructure improvements is what gives the proposed fund its bipartisan appeal, said Liliana Castillo, a…

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