April 14, 2015

Pressure for capital outlay special session continues

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RoundhouseThe pressure to have a special session to deal with capital outlay legislation that did not pass during the 2015 regular session is growing.

KRQE reported on city of Albuquerque leaders pushing for a special session to address capital outlay, including mayor Richard Berry’s administration.

Berry is a Republican and has generally been an ally of Gov. Susana Martinez, also a Republican.

“Now as the folks on the ground, the cities and the municipal governments, we’d really love to put that money to work and help employee, drive our economy towards some of these exciting construction projects,” Mayor Berry’s Chief of Staff Gilbert Montano said.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on discussions between top legislators in each chamber over what capital outlay legislation would look like.

House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, said Monday that top legislative staffers are working on potential versions of a new capital outlay bill.

“I’m very optimistic we can get something worked out,” Tripp told the Journal.

However, Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, another key figure in the special session talks, said no deal has been reached.

Smith heading up negotiations for Democrats likely shows opposition to using bonding capacity for road projects. Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has been a frequent critic of that idea.

The fiscally conservative Democrat proposed a ten cent gas tax increase to pay for road projects, though that proposal never got off the ground in this year’s legislative session.

Last week, Martinez said she was talking with legislators in each chamber about capital outlay. Senate Democrats and business groups had previously called for a special session.

In her press conference immediately following the legislative session, Martinez said she had no plans to call for a special session.

Capital outlay provides funding for infrastructure projects throughout the state. This year, the House and Senate could not come to an agreement and the House passed capital outlay with about fifteen minutes to go in the session. The version was very different than the version that passed the Senate unanimously and passed on a party-line vote.

The Senate did not hear the capital outlay legislation in time.

Martinez can call a special session at any time and set the agenda on what can be heard; it is completely possible that Martinez can add other priorities that failed during the regular session, such as third-grade retention, right-to-work, repealing driver’s licenses for those in the country illegally and more.

However, that would run counter to the idea of a one-day special session that many have expressed support for.

There is also the option of an extraordinary session, though that would take three-fifths of the House and three-fifths of the Senate to sign up for such a session. That was last done in 2002 to pass a state budget and override a veto by then-governor Gary Johnson.

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