Bingaman pays visit to Portales

By Tony Parra

U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman said it is possible for the Ute Water Project to receive federal funding from congress but one of the issues is exactly what percentage of it will be from the federal department.
Bingaman introduced a bill to the senate which would require 80 percent of funding come from the federal government, 10 percent of funding from the state government and 10 percent funding from the local entities. The total cost of the project is $307 million. The Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority makes up the local entities with entities such as the city of Portales, Elida and Roosevelt County.
“There have been similar projects in Arkansas, Iowa and South Dakota,” Bingaman said. “There have been several approved. Some of them have received 80 percent funding from the federal government. There are two steps. One step is to get authorization and the second step is to get money approved each year for the project.”
He said the Bush administration wants to fund it for a lower amount of money. Bingaman met with city and county representatives in the Portales Library to discuss the Ute Water Project, highway and street improvements and the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds.
“We utilize our fairgrounds for many activities such as the county fair and Ag Expo,” Floyd McAllister, Roosevelt County Agriculture Extension agent, said. “Every other year at the Ag Expo is seems to be cold. We’ve sent proposals.”
Bingaman suggested exploring the option of sending the proposals to specific government agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture. Bingaman said to keep in touch with him to see if there is a way he can help.
Bingaman said Clovis mayor David Lansford has kept up Bingaman informed on the local entities and their financial situations.
Bingaman toured the Roosevelt General Hospital and the La Casa de Buena Salud health care center earlier on Tuesday. He talked health care with La Casa de Buena Salud Executive Director Seferino Montano and RGH Administrator James D’Agostino. Bingaman is a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Health and Education Committee.
D’Agostino said they discussed how malpractice suits are hurting the hospital business. He said in one year hospital representatives had to pay $75,000 for a malpractice suit. He said large hospitals are having to pay a million dollars on premiums.
D’Agostino said another topic of discussion was having a program in place to help pay health care for undocumented citizens and illegal immigrants. He said a bill for 2005-08 will provide four-year funding for health care.
“We don’t refuse anybody,” D’Agostino said about patients. “Many of those cases are write-offs and we lose out on the revenue. It (program) would benefit Roosevelt General Hospital.”
D’Agostino said it is important to talk to representatives face to face and important for representatives to visit places, such as Portales.
“It’s always good to talk to them, face to face,” D’Agostino said. “We feel we know them and they know us. It shows they give attention to us.”
Bingaman attended a Democratic Party chili supper in the Rough Rider room in Portales along with New Mexico Rep. Joe Campos. He encouraged democrats to go out and vote for Sen. John Kerry in the upcoming election.