Ethics Commission Funding: How Much is Enough?

When almost three-quarters of those voting on the constitutional amendment creating an independent ethics commission signaled their approval for the commission this fall, we bet they wanted the commission to be adequately funded!

It was reported today in the Albuquerque Journal that the new governor’s budget plan includes $500k to fund the independent ethics commission.

New Mexico’s Judicial Standards Commission (JSC), with a staff of 7, that is oft-recognized as a premier organization throughout the nation, has a current budget in the $800,000 range.  The JSC polices a much smaller pool of people than the ethics commission will potentially have within its jurisdiction.

While it’s true that the commission likely won’t come into being until mid-2019, thus requiring less than a full year’s funding for start-up costs, the funds that are appropriated will most likely take the form of “recurring funds” – those that are appropriated from year to year to provide sufficient funding for ongoing operations.

During the interim, it was reported that there was a one million dollar placeholder for the commission’s yearly operations.  This might be a sufficient amount of funds to enable the commission to operate effectively and with teeth.  $500k does not seem to be sufficient to fund a full year’s operation, although it would potentially adequately cover a half year’s operation.

We’ll learn more when House Bill 2 becomes public – that bill will show the amount budgeted by the legislature for the commission.  We’ll learn more still as HB 2 and enabling legislation pass through the chambers’ respective finance committees.

That number, though, and the thought behind it, are something for all of us to keep our eyes on!

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