City, county hold different views on legislative priorities

By Tony Parra

Gov. Bill Richardson sent a letter of request to local government entities for their legislative priorities, but received a mixed response from city and county officials in Roosevelt County and legislators representing Roosevelt County.
Richardson sent out a letter requesting legislative priorities from government entities to counties, municipalities and other entities.
James Jimenez of the Department of Finance and Administration said the intent of the letter is to find out the legislative priorities in advance so the governor will have more knowledge about each county and municipality and what their priorities are.
Jimenez said it was necessary because last year the governor didn’t feel he had adequate information about the projects and wants to disperse capital outlay in a timely fashion.
Jimenez also said some of the projects were not receiving adequate funding through the legislators and wanted to know why some of the money was still not spent from previous capital outlay requests in previous years.
“This governor, more than any other, actively participates and meets with entities across the state,” Jimenez said. “He travels around the state to find out everybody’s needs are through the people.”
New Mexico senator Stuart Ingle, who represents District 27 (Roosevelt, Curry and Chavez counties), doesn’t feel the letter is necessary and believes it is only a way of trying to eliminate the legislators from the capital outlay fund. Ingle, who has been a senator since 1984, said it is the first time a governor has sent out a letter requesting the legislative priorities in advance.
“I’m opposed to it,” Ingle said. “Basically he’s trying to take out the legislators and have total control over the capital outlay funds.”
The letter is requesting the government entities send in their legislative priorities by Monday. Jimenez said the Department of Finance and Administration officials will take the information and compile a database. He said they will then present a package for Richardson to review in December, a month before the start of legislation in January.
Ingle doesn’t agree that this route will help solve the problem of unused money on projects and full-funding for projects.
“This is not a way to go about it,” Ingle said. “If they think doing that will provide full funding to some of these projects, they’re wrong. The governor is not going to provide full funding.”
Ingle said this will only help larger communities such as Albuquerque and hurt the small communities such as Portales. He said the larger communities are always going to get their funding.
Ingle said the best possible way is to go the route they went last year, without the need of the information from entities to form a package.
Senator Gay Kernan, representing District 42 (Roosevelt, Curry and Lea counties) said she understands what the governor is doing, but does not want it to take away from what the legislators do.
“My position is (what is best for) my cities and my counties,” Kernan said. “That’s who I work for.”
As far as whether the new method would solve the money problem for full funding on projects, Kernan said the administration knows there’s never going to be enough money. She said sometimes there are projects which take five or six years to complete.
The city of Portales and Roosevelt County commissioners have opposing views on the letter from the governor. City officials elected to send their capital outlay projects to the governor, while the county commissioners decided not to.
City officials said it was something the governor requested and said it wouldn’t hurt to send in the project requests and still continue to work with their legislators as they have done before.
Tom Clark, county commissioner, felt it was a way of taking the legislators out of the capital outlay funds’ disbursement process. The commission voted 4-1 not to send its priorities.
Jimenez said the Roosevelt County Commission’s decision would create problems in the development of the package for the governor.
“If we don’t know ahead of the projects it makes it difficult on the governor,” Jimenez said. “Having the knowledge and background information helps determine whether we can help and whether the project is viable with the funding requested.”