SANTA FE, N.M. — Top New Mexico finance officials said the state will save substantially less money than anticipated as they voted Friday to fix a flawed effort to refinance state-issued bonds.
The state Board of Finance led by Gov. Susana Martinez held an emergency meeting to revisit a bond deal designed to save the state as much as $9.5 million in interest by paying back creditors well ahead of a 2025 final deadline.
Outside financial and legal advisers to the board realized in early August that the state was not allowed to pay off a set of bonds issued in 2015 ahead of time, and that interest would still be due for years to come.
In an embarrassing turn of events, outside professional fees were waived as five board members voted unanimously to restructure an escrow account and continue paying the original bond obligations. New Mexico state government has been looking for every opportunity to shore up state finances that have been hit hard over the past two years by a downturn in state revenue from the oil and natural gas sectors.
Board of Finance members said the state still stands to save an estimated $1.6 million to $3.5 million through investments in tax-exempt bonds that will be used gradually to pay off bond obligations. Fees and transaction costs were estimated at just under $300,000.
“The $3.5 million is the high end,” said David Paul, a financial adviser to the board with Fiscal Strategies Group of Boulder, Colo. “And markets are markets.”
Board members continued to rely Friday on the advice from the same suite of outside financial and legal advisers who structured the bungled bond refinancing, noting that the team quickly and fully notified the board when problems were discovered.
“The way you guys handled this was top notch, absolutely,” said board member Adelmo Archuleta. “I think that we kind of got lucky in this particular situation, that it got caught.”
Advisers who helped shape the bond refinancing and its revisions included attorneys from Sherman & Howard in Colorado Springs, Colo.; the Rodey Law Firm in Albuquerque; and Kutah Rock in Denver.
“We wish we weren’t here,” financial adviser Paul told the board. “We made a mistake for which we all bear responsibility.”
Revisions to the bond deal were approved by the same five board members who voted in June on the original transaction: Archuleta, Gov. Martinez, Robert Aragon, John Kormanik and Michael Brasher. Two other voting board members — Lieutenant John Sanchez and State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg — did not attend either vote.
Friday’s resolution called for new processes “to ensure no more mistakes of this magnitude.”