Editor’s note: The Portales News-Tribune asked area lawmakers to offer brief commentary on a subject of their choice as they head back to Santa Fe this week for a 60-day legislative session.
A move is afoot in Santa Fe to change the way in which millions of your tax dollars are spent on badly needed and valuable local projects. Instead of deferring to the wisdom of legislators to decide how most of this money is spent, the governor is proposing that he make most of the decisions.
First, rural New Mexico will get fewer dollars under such a plan because money for local projects will be diverted to “statewide” projects. In rural New Mexico, we’ve learned the hard way that “statewide” is a not-too-thinly disguised codeword for “Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.” Under these “statewide” initiatives, roads, bridges, and bicycle trails get built along the I-25 corridor, and money for computers in schools, new athletic fields and after-school programs get funneled to large school districts.
Under the current system, capital outlay funds are generally distributed evenly among legislative districts, which ensures that every county in the state, most communities in every county and virtually all New Mexicans can count on a share of available dollars.
This is the system that has resulted in money for public school projects, road repairs and help on building projects for many cities and counties in rural New Mexico.
You don’t have to be a genius to know that these projects wouldn’t rank very high on a list of “statewide” priorities.
Second, no single individual and no collection of individuals knows the true needs of New Mexico’s communities better than locally elected legislators. Members of the Senate are elected every four years from districts with populations of about 43,000. Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years from even smaller districts — about 26,000 people.
We live and work in the communities that we represent and, in most cases, we’ve grown up in our communities. Local residents and local legislators know which projects need to be done first and which projects will benefit our communities the most.
Sen. Stuart Ingle is a Republican from Portales. Contact him at 356-3088