The drumbeat for a special session continues, as nearly 100 mayors from across the state have signed onto letters calling on Gov. Susana Martinez to call legislators back to the Roundhouse. The mayors of cities, towns and villages signed the letters penned by the New Mexico Municipal League. The first stated that a special session is necessary for “a capital outlay bill that is acceptable to both chambers and the executive.” “We are under no illusion this will be easy—but it is vital,” the first letter continued. “We have confidence that this is possible and that the leadership and members of our legislature share the best interests of the communities we all serve.”
The 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.
Gov. Susana Martinez said that she is speaking with legislators from both parties about a possible special session. The special session would be to pass capital outlay legislation, which pays for public infrastructure projects throughout the state. Martinez said this at the budget signing of the $6.2 billion state budget on Thursday. From Albuquerque Business First:”We have certainly been in conversations with representatives and senators from both sides of the aisle,” Martinez said. “We want to be able to come to a consensus and some agreement before we even decide whether or not we want to have a special session because it costs $50,000 a day to have the special session and we don’t want to go in there and not have these conversations and then end up with nothing, or something worse, so we are talking with leadership.”Martinez said her office had contacted Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, but had not spoke to him.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]BILL JORDAN is Senior Policy Advisor/Governmental Relations for NM Voices for Children. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.[/box]
Since the legislative session concluded without the passage of a capital outlay bill—money for public works projects like building community centers—there have been rumblings about the need for a special session. Amid this din, the Executive Office has indicated that it would also want tax cuts to be considered. A special session should be called, but the Legislature should limit their agenda to passing the public works projects and not even consider handing out more tax breaks. How much more evidence do we need that tax cuts are a failed economic development strategy?
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]EDITOR’S NOTE — Excerpts from two recent editorials about the failure of the capital outlay bill in the last minutes of the legislative session (and the looming possibility of a special session) are below. Links to the full editorials can be found at the end of each excerpt.[/box]
What Really Happened to the Capital Outlay Bill | by Sen. Michael Sanchez (Democratic Floor Leader) Following the governor’s press conference at the end of the 2015 Legislative Session, residents of New Mexico may be excused for being confused about what actually happened to spending on infrastructure projects across the state. Governor Susana Martinez did not help matters when she levelled false accusations against Senate Democrats. On Saturday, at a widely-covered press conference, the governor ripped into Senate Democrats for “killing” projects and jobs. This is nonsense that she knows to be untrue.
One of the biggest stories of the 2015 legislative session was the failure to pass a capital outlay bill. This may result in a special session. The day before the end of the session, House Republicans made major changes to the capital outlay legislation in the House Ways and Means Committee. The next day, the legislation passed the House with less than 20 minutes to go in the session and was never heard in the Senate before the chamber adjourned sine die at noon. The fingerpointing began immediately, with Republicans—including Gov. Susana Martinez—blaming Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, and Democrats blaming House Republicans and Martinez.
Gov. Susana Martinez’s rhetoric was unsparing during a press conference following the conclusion of a Legislative session that saw few of her top priorities reach her desk. She employed the word “killed” seven times in her opening statement, referring to the implosion of the statewide capital outlay proposal during the session’s final 48 hours. The failure of that funding measure constituted a “failure of leadership” on the part of Democrats, she said, particularly those in the Senate. “Look at their track-record throughout this session,” she told a throng of reporters. “Their leadership displayed rampant partisanship, some of the worst that I’ve seen, and constant gridlock, delays and feet-dragging.
In a press conference following the Senate adjourning sine die, the Senate Majority Leader said he believed that the chamber had a productive session, at least when it came to passing Senate legislation. He repeatedly said that he wasn’t sure what happened when bills went over to the House once the Senate passed the legislation, which he said the Senate did effectively. One highlight that Sanchez mentioned was the economic bills that passed the Senate. “I think the Senate Democrats had a good economic plan, a ready to work plan,” Sanchez told reporters in his office. He said they passed most of the plan, though the controversial increase in the gas tax did not pass.
Proposals for statewide capital outlay were left languishing Saturday as a bitterly divided battle over funding methods consumed the state House of Representatives’ last day of the 2015 session. A narrow 36 to 32 vote minutes before the House adjourned sine die meant approval of late-hour committee changes to a capital outlay plan favored by the Senate, but that chamber ran out of time to concur with the House adjustments. The Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee made the controversial amendments Friday, adjusting road improvement funding mechanisms to honor preferences of the governor’s office. The committee changes would fund road improvements through $45 million in severance tax bonds rather than drawing down reserves from the state’s general fund. Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, described the measure as state government “borrowing short to build long-term assets,” adding it constituted “a sound practice from a business perspective.” Democrats vehemently objected to the changes, which they said would result in the denial of tens of millions of dollars from high- and critical-priority projects identified over the last year by local governments.
Two Senate Democrats spoke out against a decision by a House committee to remove $80 million from a capital outlay bill on Friday. Sens. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, told reporters that financial cuts made in the House Ways and Means Committee were fiscally irresponsible. Smith criticized the committees approval of cuts from senior centers and colleges across the state to instead fund roads. Smith said this process of funding roads is already a source of state debt.