NM could feel pinch of federal budget battle

September 28, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Thousands of federal employees in New Mexico are bracing for the possibility of furloughs and lost paychecks as the government scoots closer [auth] to the edge of a partial shutdown next week.

Unless Congress acts before Tuesday to fund federal spending, the gates to popular tourist destinations such as Carlsbad Caverns National Monument and other parks around New Mexico could be closed. Passport applications could be left unprocessed and work could be suspended at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said Friday that lurching from one potential shutdown to another is a dysfunctional way to govern.

“It’s harmful to the economy and to middle class families,” he said. “It erodes our national security and hurts military families. And it’s devastating to the morale of the public employees in New Mexico and across the country who work hard and keep our nation safe.”

For New Mexico, a shutdown could affect paychecks for about 2,100 Pentagon-funded civilian employees at Kirtland Air Force Base and about 4,000 other workers at New Mexico military installations, the Albuquerque Journal reports ( ).

Civilian employees at other military installations could also feel the pinch.

White Sands Missile Range employs about 2,450 civilian personnel, Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo has 840 civilian workers and Cannon Air Force Base has about 630 civilians.

Employees at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories are expected to stay on the job – at least in the short-term.

The labs have enough money on hand to continue operating for another month “without significant disruption to the workforce,” even if the federal government shuts down, said Jennifer Talhelm, spokeswoman for Udall.

Sandia President Paul J. Hommer told employees in a memo that in the event of a shutdown, the lab will use unspent, prior-year carry-over funds to continue to operate.

A spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez said top state officials are coordinating plans to maintain basic services.

“There are, of course, potential impacts to funding for programs like TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and others, but states tend to have balances in reserves that could be used for a period of time to continue services in many of these programs,” said Enrique Knell.

Albuquerque city officials pointed to potential impacts on the airport, afterschool programs, funding for senior citizen meal programs and housing vouchers.

“The dollars for these programs could have to be found elsewhere, potentially from the taxpayers of Albuquerque until the federal government gets back on track,” said Dayna Gardner, a spokeswoman for Mayor Richard Berry.

In southeastern New Mexico, Carlsbad Caverns Superintendent John Benjamin told the Carlsbad Current-Argus ( that he’s optimistic a shutdown can be avoided. Still, the park has made plans.

“As stupid as it is, we have to prepare for it,” Benjamin said. “My inclination is that it won’t happen. But we have had a plan.”

Benjamin said although the park would have to close, essential personnel, such as park’s four law enforcement rangers, two maintenance employees and the waste water treatment operator, would continue to be on duty.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

« »