Legislators optimistic over capital outlay requests

Area legislators are optimistic that capital outlay requests will be spared the fate of Gov. Susana Martinez’ veto pen, with a March 7 deadline to approve or veto pieces of the $137 million bill.

Martinez said last week that vetoes were a distinct possibility for the budget and for capital outlay if it was evident that legislators weren’t, “putting the bigger projects in front of the interests of taking a little pork home.”

She made that point later in the week, specifically pointing to her intentions to veto a $201,000 appropriation for a project at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

With requests in eastern New Mexico that range from water system upgrades to road improvements to a land purchase for Cannon Air Force Base, nearly every item is a bigger project with at least a $100,000 request.

“I know everything that got through the process for Curry, Roosevelt and even Quay counties were very meaningful projects with water and wastewater, etc.,” outgoing Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, said. “Based on her criteria, I don’t think she would line item any of the projects. My guidelines were nothing less than $100,000.”

Most of the items do meet that criteria from Harden, even outside of his coverage area in Roosevelt County. Of 14 capital outlay requests in Curry and Roosevelt counties, just four were less than $100,000 — $5,000 for a Lincoln Jackson Family Center sign, $5,000 each to Floyd and Melrose schools for educational equipment and $50,000 for Melrose water system improvements.

Larger projects in Curry County include $350,000 for road improvements near the Tres Amigas project, a power superstation set to receive numerous shipments of heavy equipment, and $278,000 to further construction of Clovis’ effluent water reuse pipeline project.

Projects in Roosevelt County include $186,000 for Roosevelt General Hospital construction and $150,000 in county road improvements.

Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, shared Harden’s optimism.

“Hopefully, she will recognize we’re pretty in tune with our county’s needs,” Kernan said. “A lot of the money for (capital outlay) comes from our area, so it’s certainly the right thing to do to return the money.”

Money for capital outlay projects come from the sale of bonds secured by severance taxes and general state funding. Severance tax dollars come from taxes the state receives from oil, gas and other extractive industries.

Since the money is essentially borrowed, ideal projects for funding are ones with long shelf lives that provide work and services for the community to grow its tax base.