June 16, 2015

Capital outlay delayed by politics | by Rep. Jason Harper

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]REP. JASON HARPER is a Republican representing District 47 in Sandoval County. The Republican Party of New Mexico submitted this piece in response to recent stories at The New Mexico Political Report covering the legislature’s capital outlay special session.[/box]

The $264 million capital outlay bill that would have jump-started job growth, fixed roads and repaired schools died an unnecessary death at the hands of the Democratic-controlled State Senate.

But to hear Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez’s slanted version of events, you’d never know that.

So here is what I witnessed, first-hand.

Rep. Jason Harper (R-Sandoval)

Rep. Jason Harper (R-Sandoval)

On Day One of the legislative session, Sanchez proclaimed, “Bills have always come to die in the Senate.”

And sure enough, many bipartisan and commonsense bills that would have made New Mexico a better place to live, find a job and raise a family – although passed by the House of Representatives – were killed in the Senate and never made it to the governor’s desk.

To put the capital outlay bill in context, historically, the governor, the House of Representatives and the Senate have always negotiated which projects are funded through the capital outlay bill.

The long-standing precedent was that the governor would decide funding for statewide projects, such as major road repairs, while the House and Senate would fund projects of critical importance in their districts.

But this year, Senate Democrats broke off negotiations and unilaterally made all of those decisions themselves. There was no consultation with the governor or House Republicans.

Furthermore, Senate Democrats deliberately sat on the bill for weeks before finally sending it to the House with only five days left before the session ended.

They wanted to run out the clock and stick New Mexico with a spending bill that funded their own pet projects – iPads, dance barns, dance mats, solar-powered automatic doors and automated medicine dispensers – but did almost nothing for job growth.

Behind closed doors, Senate leadership was holding the capital outlay bill hostage – demanding a substantial increase in the state gasoline tax before allowing any input from the governor.

So with very little time to act, House Republicans took a stand to protect the taxpayers.

We worked hard to find common ground that would have helped improve our communities in a responsible way, without raising the gasoline tax and hurting struggling families.

It was a good bipartisan compromise that respected the long-standing tradition of sharing responsibility for decision-making and compromise.

And more importantly, it was the right thing to do on behalf of the taxpayers.

We then sent the bill back to the Senate for concurrence, with plenty of time for them to act.

But Sanchez wouldn’t have it. He and the Democrats wouldn’t even bring the bill out for an honest vote on the Senate floor.

So the session ended without passing a bill that would have funded hundreds of infrastructure projects all over the state. Though intended to hurt House Republicans and the governor, the real victims here were the good people of New Mexico.

At the end of the day, I’m proud of the work we put in to improve life for New Mexico families, and I promise that we will do it again next year. To me, working for all New Mexicans will always come before political games.


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