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$89M from capital fund goes to water projects

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SANTA FE – Maxwell Mayor Kay Pinkston got the good news Thursday afternoon: a $1 million appropriation to replace the northeastern New Mexico village’s aging water well. “This is absolutely wonderful,” Pinkston said in a phone interview. “It’s going to mean that we’re going to have water.”

Pinkston and her fellow villagers, whose community water system nearly ran dry last year, are among the beneficiaries of nearly $89 million in water projects money approved by New Mexico legislators in the waning hours of their 2013 session.

The Maxwell money, which Pinkston said was included in the bill with the help of Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, was part of the Legislature’s $233 million annual capital outlay bill. Most of the money – $185 million – comes from the state’s severance tax fund, money collected from businesses that extract oil, gas and other natural resources from land within the states.

Beyond Maxwell, the bill funded water projects across the state, from $8 million for a sewage treatment system in Chama to $4 million for a project in Alamogordo aimed at turning salty groundwater into a drinkable municipal supply.

In a brief post-session news conference, Gov. Susana Martinez praised the spending, saying it would advance important goals in ensuring water quality and supply, and providing economic growth.

The final spending package was the result of extensive give-and-take between the Governor’s Office and legislators over how to spend the capital budget. Martinez rankled some legislators with a November news conference announcing a proposal to spend $112 million of the capital budget on water, but then failing to provide a list of which projects the administration supported.

In the end, according to Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, the package of water projects represented a mix of the governor’s priorities and those of individual legislators, who traditionally tap into the capital spending money for a variety of home-district projects, from dams and water systems to schools and community centers. “We tried to accommodate as best we could,” Cisneros said of the Legislature’s response to the governor’s request.

Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, called the final package of water projects “well-vetted” and said the work would have economic benefits in the communities where it will be done. “It’s going to create a lot of jobs,” said Trujillo, who shepherded the spending package through the House.

Journal Capitol Bureau reporter Deborah Baker contributed to this report.

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