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ABQ Chamber urges restraint during legislative session

The Roundhouse. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Even with record-setting revenue from New Mexico’s oil and gas industry flowing into Santa Fe, one of the state’s largest business organizations is urging restraint during the ongoing legislative session.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce’s legislative agenda, which it announced Monday, includes lists of policies the chamber will support and oppose. In broad strokes, the chamber urged a more targeted approach, rather than the steep increase in spending seen during last year’s session.

“Our overall theme this year is that we think the mood of last year should stop,” said Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Albuquerque chamber.

For the second straight year, New Mexico has a substantial budget surplus, due largely to revenue from the ongoing oil and gas boom in the Permian Basin. During last year’s session, the Legislature passed a $7 billion budget, an increase of roughly 11% over the prior year.

This year, the chamber of commerce is calling for a more moderate increase to spending and advocating for recurring spending growth to be capped at 6.5%. Cole said she’d like to see the Legislature be less reliant on ebbs and flows to the volatile oil and gas industry, while still addressing systemic challenges like early childhood and homelessness.

“We’re walking that important, fine line,” Cole said.

The chamber supports a proposal to establish a fund that would boost spending on early childhood education. Cole said the funding approach, which would allocate around $320 million from the general fund in 2020 and incorporate excess revenue from oil and gas production in the future, allows the state to take a sustainable approach to using oil and gas revenue to help solve a long-running problem in New Mexico.

“Early childhood programs are the foundation of so much that New Mexico is trying to achieve,” Cole said.

The chamber has also thrown its support behind a series of proposals designed to improve public safety across the state. Cole said the chamber has endorsed tougher criminal penalties for those who use firearms while committing a crime, and focused deterrence strategies to tackle violence from organized groups or gangs.

“We know that public safety is a huge challenge in Albuquerque and around the state,” she said.

Other proposals supported by the chamber include:

– Seek permanent, recurring funding for the Crime Strategies Unit in the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s office.

– Secure $6.7 million in capital funding for improvements for the Albuquerque Police Department

– Secure $14 million in state capital funding to build an around-the-clock shelter and service facility in Albuquerque for individuals experiencing homelessness

For a full rundown of chamber’s legislative agenda, click here.

 


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