Low on cash, New Mexico may cut museums & historical sites admist possible government shutdown

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE)The Governor’s office says the state is running desperately low on cash, so much so, it’s now prioritizing programs in case of a government shutdown.

Representatives say cultural services, like museums and historical sites, would be the first to get cut. But some leaders say it’s premature to prioritize.

They’re two revolutionaries, pioneers of the renaissance. Their work is unmistakable and now, it’s headed to the New Mexico Museum of Art.

“Original works of art by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, how often do New Mexicans get to see art on that scale without going to Europe?” said Cultural Affairs Deputy Secretary, Mike Delello.

Now that the governor is threatening a government shutdown, Delello is not so sure.

“Any slowdown in services would affect our ability to put that exhibit on,” he said.

According to the Department of Finance, it may only be a matter of time before the dollars dry up and services are cut. Leaders with the department say a hiring freeze for non-essential workers is already in place and most work travel is not allowed. Now, they have prioritized services, with public safety at the top and cultural services at the bottom.

Delello understands but argues the department’s mission is important. He says its reach extends far beyond an upcoming art exhibit. The department also manages seven historic sites, including Lincoln and Fort Sumner. It also partners with Albuquerque Public Schools and the National Hispanic Cultural Center to provide educational programs to 30,000 4th and 5th graders a year.

“I could go on and on,” said Delello.
“These are all things that could be impacted?” asked KRQE News 13.
“Yes. Absolutely,” said Delello.

He says he’s concerned.

“It would be a dire consequence, I think, not only for the employees that work and are paid for by the state who would not receive pay, but the important mission we fulfill in terms of tourism, in terms of children’s education and the citizens generally being able to learn and appreciate the wonder of the arts, sciences and culture that is New Mexico,” Delello explained.

Governor Martinez’s office blames the legislature. A spokesperson says it not only failed to pass a balanced budget for next fiscal year, it didn’t  shore up reserves for this one, either. He tells KRQE News 13 the governor’s biggest issue with the budget is the tax increase. Governor Martinez vowed not to raise taxes.

“The legislature worked very hard this past session, and it delivered a balanced budget to the governor,” said Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairwoman Debra Haaland.

Democratic leaders like Haaland and Representative Patricia Lundstrom defend both budgets and say it’s too early to call for such drastic measures.

“There are a lot of state employees who rely on a paycheck to feed their families, to pay their rent, to carry on the way they need to,” said Haaland. “I think a threatening of a government shutdown is extremely irresponsible. I think it instills fear in people.”

There are about three months left in this fiscal year. To learn more about the New Mexico Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibit, click here.

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