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New Mexico finance secretary resigns as budget crisis builds due to pandemic

New Mexico state budget

SANTA FE, New Mexico — New Mexico’s top finance official is leaving the administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as the state anticipates a budget crisis linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Finance and Administration Secretary Olivia Padilla-Jackson told agency staff in the email this week that she will leave her position at the end of May for a job closer to family in Albuquerque.

Lujan Grisham spokeswomen Nora Sackett Meyers said Debbie Romero, the current state budget director, will succeed Padilla-Jackson as acting secretary in June.

Efforts to fight the coronavirus are creating a major deficit in the state budget. Lujan Grisham expects to call a special session of the Legislature in June to address the problem before the start of a new fiscal year on July 1.

Financial analysts with the Legislative Finance Committee say state spending during the coming budget year could quickly wipe out reserves that were set aside for an economic downturn, oil sector bust or both.

Padilla-Jackson could not be reached for further comment.

Appointed last year as Lujan Grisham took office, Padilla-Jackson oversaw state finances as record-breaking oil production boosted state income to unprecedented levels, allowing new multibillion-dollar investments in public education, health care and infrastructure.

Under her tenure, the state sped up and improved its core financial reporting procedures and set aside at least $1.3 billion in financial reserves.

New Mexico has now imposed a hiring freeze to conserve funds amid discussion in Washington about possible additional federal aid to shore up finances for state and local governments, which cannot borrow money to fund basic operations. A $2.2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package signed in late March set aside $150 billion for state, local and tribal governments and $30 billion in stabilization funds for education.

Padilla-Jackson previously served stints in high-level finance posts with the city of Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and the state Board of Finance. She also has served as a staff economist and analyst at the nonpartisan budget accountability office for the Legislature.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

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