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Capital outlay transparency bill stalls after Senate facelift

SANTA FE — A proposal to publicly disclose how New Mexico lawmakers divvy up their allocated funding in an annual infrastructure bill failed to pass the Senate late Friday.

Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, the Senate floor sponsor of the measure, House Bill 262, asked that the bill be bypassed after an amendment was tacked on that would have diluted the disclosure requirement.

Rural senators argued during the floor debate that publication of a list detailing how each lawmaker spent their available capital outlay funding — for dams, roads, sports fields and other projects– would make collaboration more difficult and lead to more politically-motivated decision-making.

“We constantly find ways to criticize ourselves like we’re doing something horrible when we’re not,” said Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.

But backers said the proposal, which would not have taken effect until after the 2020 legislative session, would bring greater transparency to a capital outlay process that critics have described as shrouded in secrecy.

“This isn’t our money — this is taxpayer money,” Rue said. “When we make those appropriations we should have to face the music.”

But the amendment sponsored by Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, removed the bill’s provision that the dollar amount of each project funded by a lawmaker be disclosed — along with the lawmaker’s name. That amendment was approved on a 25-14 vote after a previous proposed amendment was narrowly defeated.

The House had passed the bill last month on a 68-0 vote. It’s sponsored by Democratic Reps. Matthew McQueen of Galisteo, Natalie Figueroa of Albuquerque and Joy Garratt of Albuquerque.

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