February 12, 2016

House panel votes down capital outlay overhaul

Photo Credit: MTSOfan cc

Amid concerns about funding of small and rural projects, a House committee rejected a bid to overhaul the state’s controversial and unique capital reform process.

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted against advancing the bill to the next committee including with no recommendation on a 5-5 vote.

Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, broke from party ranks to vote against the proposal. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, voted with most of the Republicans.

The think tank Think New Mexico pushed the proposal, which would have modeled the process after how school infrastructure is built.

“This can sometimes be a humbling process but we appreciate the thoughtful discussion that HB 307 received,” Think New Mexico executive director Fred Nathan said in a statement. “We are also encouraged that HB 307 earned the support of so many business and labor groups, which is a strong foundation to build on for next year.”

The proposal called for a council that would review projects and the creation of a statewide plan before the Legislature considers the plan. The capital outlay legislation has become in recent decades a virtual must-pass piece of legislation.

Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan, said that the proposal would hurt small projects like in his area of the state because the council would not be familiar with the area.

“By taking these projects and giving them to someone who’s going up there and has no idea what’s happening on the ground, it’s a whole different world,” Alcon said.

He gave an example of a project line-item vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez in a previous capital outlay bill; she deemed the $50,000 for an extension of a power line not enough funding to complete the project. He said in his area of the state, that funding would have been enough.

Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, said the council would help with those situations.

“That’s the function of the council,” Cisneros said. “To take a small project that may not have enough funding and to do two things: One to analyze whether or not it has a sufficient funding for a start to finish and whether or not it’s shovel ready. And secondly, to solicit; to find other sources of money or funding in order to complete that project.”

Rep. James Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, said that he appreciated the effort, but that it was not fully realized.

“I think the cart is in front of the horse,” Madalena said.

Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, also expressed concern about where the funding would go.

“I think the statewide would take it all up and my district would be left out,” Rodella said.

Update: Added a quote by Fred Nathan.