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.
Gov. Susana Martinez signed capital outlay legislation that funded nearly $300 million for infrastructure and other projects on Wednesday, though she did make some cuts. In all, Martinez used her line-item veto authority to cut 41 programs from counties around the state and one statewide project. Martinez vetoed around $1.1 million in funding. She explained her decision-making process, somewhat, in her executive message on the bill where she outlined the vetoes: In deciding whether to sign or veto projects, I balanced various features of each project (given the information to which I had access) against a set of criteria that should guide the use of capital outlay funds. Let me be clear: every project in this legislation likely has merit.
Gov. Susana Martinez signed a nearly $300-million capital outlay bill on Wednesday that passed during a special legislative session last week after it failed to pass during the regular session earlier this year. Martinez was in Las Cruces, the latest stop in her tour of the state to promote the three pieces of legislation that passed during the special session. Martinez is also scheduled appear in Santa Teresa today, a day after appearing in Rio Rancho to tout the capital outlay package. Martinez highlighted the passage of funding for highway projects as part of the $294 million package. “Far too many of our roads are dangerous, and they are in dire need of repair.
[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. 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.
Gov. Susana Martinez signed a tax package on Monday afternoon that she says will create jobs throughout the state. Martinez, accompanied by those in the business community as well as legislators, signed the legislation in Albuquerque. The state Legislature passed the tax package last week overwhelmingly during a special session. The package failed to pass during the regular session earlier this year. “We must diversify our economy and grow our private sector, and that requires us to make it easier for those with great ideas to start a new business in New Mexico,” Martinez said in a statement.