It was clear since March that COVID-19 would be the top story of the year, for New Mexico and nationwide. If you look back at our list, COVID-19 touched on every topic this year. From the impact on the budget to the need for two special sessions, COVID-19 reshaped every aspect of New Mexicans’ lives. On March 11, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the first confirmed cases of the disease in the state, and declared a public health emergency over COVID-19. She banned any gatherings of 100 or more people.
State legislators finished the 2020 legislative session with a $7.6 billion budget in February that expanded spending 7.5 percent across the state’s departments, with more than 45 percent of all new recurring expenditures going toward what Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the “education continuum,” from early childhood programs to higher education.
Then the pandemic hit in March, which brought the state’s economy to a grinding halt. And in April, a price war between Russia and Saudia Arabia drove the price of oil into negative territory for the first time ever.
In May, a group of state economists from the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) warned that recurring revenues for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) could decline between $370 million to $480 million below forecasts from the previous year. That meant the state wouldn’t have enough money to cover FY20’s spending, the economists said.
See our entire countdown of top stories, to date, here. After a long battle that caused some long-time state lawmakers to lose their seats, the state Senate shifted left in 2020. Long-time state Senators John Arthur Smith in SD 35; President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen in SD 38; Clemente Sanchez in SD 30; Richard Martinez in SD 5 and incumbent Gabriel “Gabe” Ramos in SD 28 all lost their seats to progressive Democrats in the June primary election. Of the progressive Democrats who won the primary: Neomi Martinez-Para against Smith; Carrie Hamblen against Papen; Pam Cordova against Sanchez; Leo Jaramillo against Martinez; and Siah Correa Hemphill against Ramos, only Martinez-Parra and Cordova lost the general election to Republicans. Related: State Senate shifts left with progressive wins
Note: Every year, we count down the top ten stories of the year, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers. See our entire countdown of 2020 top stories, to date, here. 10. Migrants in detention
Although “Free Them All Friday,” a rally held by car at the Cibola County Correctional Facility in May tried to alert the public and officials to the dangers of holding migrants in detention facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state said there was little it could do. According to advocates at the time, migrants were refusing to eat because they were expected to sit in a dining room with 350 others.