Feb. 3—New Mexico Environment Secretary
Kenney implored members of the
The increase would raise the agency's general fund budget to
"That is, all things considered, a very modest increase," Kenney said. "That investment in the
In all, the agency's revenue last year was
The Legislative Finance Committee recommended keeping the agency's general fund allocations the same as last year's, which Kenney argued was not enough to provide effective oversight.
Kenney said the requested funding increase is the difference between the agency being able to investigate workplace complaints and deaths and leaving those incidents unchecked.
Probing workplace violations through the state office of the
The agency's budget was cut by 42 percent in the last three years that former Gov.
The agency has a vacancy rate of 17.7 percent, which adds up to 63 jobs that should be filled, Kenney said.
None of the committee members spoke against the requested increase.
The committee is considering hefty increases in spending on economic development and tourism, he said.
"And those are great things, but I would hope we'd all agree that environmental protection and protecting public health are at least equally important," Steinborn said.
Subpar environmental oversight can hurt economic development because companies don't want to locate in places that are unhealthy and unsafe, he added.
The proposed budget includes
Kenney said the agency conducted more than 30,000 rapid responses last year. The overall effort was to keep the businesses running, he said, estimating fewer than a dozen were issued citations.
The agency is on the lookout for federal grant money to help cover rapid responses, but that is harder to come by now that portions of CARES Act funding have expired, Kenney said.
"We're seeing well over a billion dollars to deal with the COVID issue," Burt said of state funding. "And to not be able to carve out
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