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Southern NM lawmakers pushing for additional funding this session


A view of the Mesilla Valley near Las Cruces as the sun sets over the Organ Mountains. Lawmakers from southern New Mexico say the rapidly growing region needs funding for infrastructure, education and economic development. (Angela Kocherga/Albuquerque Journal)

LAS CRUCES — Southern New Mexico lawmakers begin the legislative session focused on shared priorities including infrastructure, education and economic development needs in the rapidly growing region.

“Everybody is trying to get their budget request in. We swept so many funds out of projects, out of counties and cities last year,” said Majority Whip Rep. Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces.

The Doña Ana County Legislative Coalition is one way the region is amplifying its voice in Santa Fe. The coalition includes the county, city of Las Cruces, business and education leaders in the region.

“Part of the reason we brought the coalition together is to have a stronger voice,” said Bill Connor, chairman of the Doña Ana County Legislative Coalition.

In an upbeat video, the coalition touts the accomplishments of southern New Mexico and urges state lawmakers who seek the greatest return to “invest” in a region that “already leads the state in high school graduation rates, exports and job creation.”

The video highlights Spaceport America, the Santa Teresa border crossing, White Sands Missile Range and the West Mesa Industrial Park.

But southern New Mexico also struggles to fund basic infrastructure.

“Little areas like Vado, Berino and Anthony don’t get what they need,” said Gallegos. “Fixing those roads. Making sure people have access to clean water.”

Storm water control is one of the priorities for Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces.

“We’re looking at introducing legislation to better plan and develop infrastructure,” said Small.

He also wants to grow the economy in southern New Mexico by focusing on “clean renewable energy, value added agriculture and border trade with Santa Teresa.”

With the past two years of deep budget cuts behind them, southern New Mexico lawmakers like Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, are hopeful they can accomplish more this session including possible raises for teachers.

“It’s hard to feel anything but better than the last few years when things were dire,” said Soules.