Their view: State should consider projects responsibly

Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, offers this view on capital outlay projects:

Legislators and the governor have joined forces to abandon the haphazard process of funding capital outlay projects a little bit at a time and with minimal thought as to how each project fits into the state’s infrastructure strategic plan. Instead, we are committed to responsibly pay for and complete projects that improve the overall health, safety and welfare of New Mexicans.

The state and local governments should review current strategic plans and proceed cautiously when considering planning and design funding because that triggers huge construction and operating costs that taxpayers are not always able to maintain.

Some capital outlay projects are funded by state-issued bonds, which essentially are loans the state takes out and repays with severance tax revenue. New Mexico is fairly unique in that the state has oil and natural gas reserves that allow us to use tax revenue from those commodities to repay the loans used to finance construction projects. Other projects are financed by general obligation bonds — loans the state takes out that are repaid by property taxes — and the legislature will work to limit the amount of those loans to a level that will not result in an increase in property taxes.

We must use these valuable resources wisely.

Continuing our work toward fully funding projects that have not been completed helps ensure that these dormant projects do not cost us more in the long run because we have allowed a partially finished project to deteriorate. Funding new projects and purchases that will outlive the life of the typical 10-year loan ensures that state taxpayers will pay off the loan long before the project or purchase is obsolete.

Additionally, projects that help ensure the public welfare and safety — such as dam restoration projects to improve domestic water sources, control silt and bring water to New Mexico’s agricultural households — must be given priority. Public health, safety and education projects must be put ahead of projects that may be nice to do but are not necessary. The legislature recognizes the difference between what the state “wants” and what the state “needs.”