Gov. Susana Martinez used her line-item vetoed over 150 projects and $8.2 million from the capital outlay bill (mainly from Democrats). In her signing message, Martinez said that she vetoed any projects of less than $10,000 saying, it is “because I firmly believe that funding (and usually, under-funding) so many small projects flies in the face of how our severance tax bonds should be spent.”
Related Story: Eight bills Gov. Martinez vetoed. There were 16 such projects vetoed; another 14 vetoed projects asked for exactly $10,000, while nine projects for exactly $10,000 survived. However, she also vetoed some larger scale projects. She said that many projects were not fully funded and in other cases weren’t for things the city or county asked for.
Nearly two-thirds of the 155 severance tax bond projects vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez were sponsored solely by Democrats, while only 14 projects sponsored solely by Republicans got the ax. On Wednesday, Martinez’s veto pen eliminated dollars meant to pay for capital appropriations for zoo animals, golf courses, rugby equipment, a dog park, a bicycle recycling program and more. In a sharply worded veto message, the governor explained her vetoes by slamming the Legislature for continuing the practice of earmarking dollars for pork-barrel projects while defeating proposed reforms of the system during the just-ended 30-day legislative session. Her vetoes totaled almost $8.2 million in a bill that now allocates $157.8 million in infrastructure projects around the state. Her vetoes included 17 projects of less than $10,000 and 15 projects funded at $10,000.
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.
A new survey of New Mexico business leaders shows most think there is a real problem with the influence of money in politics. And some business groups are getting serious about plans to clean up state government. Nearly 90 percent of business leaders think all political spending should be made public, according to a poll of 250 business leaders, commissioned by the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington D.C.-area think tank. It follows the release of a CED-sponsored report conducted in conjunction with the University of New Mexico, “Crony Capitalism, Corruption, and the Economy in the State of New Mexico.” The New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry is one of many groups speaking out in support of proposals they say would give voters—and businesses—more confidence in their leaders.
The latest dire predictions for the budget came from the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, just a day before legislators gather and Gov. Susana Martinez gives her State of the State Address. In an online newsletter previewing the session, the Chamber started the discussion of the budget by saying, “It’s not going to be a fun year.” The reason? Oil prices. The budget projections assumed nearly $50 per barrel of oil.
We are going to be counting down the top ten stories of the year now and after Christmas. In this installment, we are looking at the number 10 through number 6 stories of the year. Then, starting on December 26, we will count down the top five stories of the year with expanded recaps or personal recollections from the three members of the team. Tune in each morning to see what the next story is. We are counting down the top ten stories through the end of the year with expanded recaps or personal recollections from the three members of the team.
Hundreds of projects around New Mexico sit uncompleted as $1 billion in state funding meant to pay for them remains unspent, legislative staff told the New Mexico Legislature’s budget arm Wednesday. About one-fourth of that is for local projects in New Mexico’s cities, towns and communities, staff told the Legislative Finance Committee. Eleven New Mexico counties, including San Juan and Taos, haven’t spent 90 percent or more of the state dollars set aside for them between 2012 and 2014, according to Wednesday’s report on lawmaker-sponsored projects. The $1 billion unspent includes dollars earmarked or brick-and-mortar projects, also known as capital outlay, infrastructure for tribal communities and water and colonias projects. Lawmakers expressed concern about the unspent money, but some noted that many projects are in the planning process and the money eventually should be spent.
New Mexico’s capital outlay process isn’t transparent, doesn’t spend money wisely and results in projects that are half-finished—or never begin in the first place. So says Think New Mexico, a Santa Fe-based think thank that in recent years has successfully pushed to repeal gross receipts taxes on food and stripped the Public Regulation Committee of some responsibilities. Taking on the entrenched interests of capital outlay, however, will be a “heavy lift” as executive director Fred Nathan acknowledged in an interview last week with New Mexico Political Report. Still, that’s the task that Think New Mexico’s board said should be next. One reason it was on their mind?
State Sen. Pete Campos is a Democrat who represents the 8th Senate District in New Mexico. In early June, the New Mexico Legislature met for a one-day session to pass supplemental appropriations for some state agencies, a tax relief package and, most importantly, a $295 million capital outlay package to inject much-needed infrastructure funding into communities and projects across the state. While it is true that a special session only became necessary because the legislature could not come to an agreement among a majority of its members and the governor, the negotiation, passage and signing of the special session bills are a prime example of how effective policymakers in New Mexico can be when we all agree on the importance of something and are willing to compromise on a solution to fix it. I am retired now, and so, since July 1, I have spent day after day traveling around New Mexico, beginning in the district I represent. In each community I visit, and with most of the people I speak with, several recurring themes emerge. Communities in every corner of the state, many of them small, rural ones, have educational facilities and state and local highways, bridges and roads in dire need of repair or replacement and small businesses just trying to survive. Community leaders also repeatedly identify a need to improve infrastructure delivery for clean water, wastewater and solid waste systems and good public health care and health care facilities as important. The State of New Mexico can do a lot more to help these people and their communities! We have a capital outlay system that begs for meaningful reform. Millions of unspent dollars languish in state coffers that realistically are not sufficient to complete a phase or an entire project, and no other alternative exists but to claw back or revert these funds. These funds could be put to use improving roads, schools and public water systems. More could be done to encourage people to take advantage of free or low-cost preventive health care services, which will lead to lower health care costs and healthier lifestyles. These are a few steps we can take, some simple and others more complex, to continue assisting New Mexico with its immediate problems and simultaneously move toward solving issues that hold back our efforts to improve our health, safety and the economy. This fundamental approach will prepare us for a more robust economy, a skilled, healthy and happy work force gainfully employed and the basis to keep our children living and working in the state.
Democratic lawmakers felt the brunt of Gov. Susana Martinez’s 42 capital outlay project vetoes, with 27 of those projects sponsored solely by Democrats. But Martinez did veto some GOP projects, including three Albuquerque projects advocated by House Majority Leader Nate Gentry. A key aspect of the capital outlay appropriation process involves lawmakers recommending local projects on behalf of their constituents. Only a fraction of the projects make it into the bill, when legislators must choose how to allocate their share of the bond money. The $294 million bill included $84 million for lawmaker projects, divided equally between the House and Senate, then divided equally between the lawmakers in each body.