Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Money from stalled New Mexico capital outlay projects has become part of the piggy bank lawmakers regularly turn to during times of economic trouble.
Most recently, a budget solvency plan approved by New Mexico lawmakers during a special session that ended June 22 included $13.9 million in savings generated from canceling roughly 70 capital outlay projects that had not moved forward since being authorized.
The bill authorizing the one-time budget savings, Senate Bill 5, is still awaiting final approval from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who already vetoed $110 million in proposed public works projects in March due to due to concerns over plummeting oil prices and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Capital outlay funding proposed to be clawed back in the special session bill includes $2.4 million for a road extension between Sunland Park and Santa Teresa, nearly $824,000 for the Albuquerque Holocaust and Intolerance Museum and $240,000 to renovate the historic Chief Theater in Mora.
Also scrapped – if the governor approves the bill in its current form – is a $650,000 project to build a new house for the president of Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.
New Mexico’s capital outlay system for funding improvements to roads, bridges, dams and water systems has come under scrutiny in recent years for its secrecy and lack of efficiency.
But attempts to overhaul the system, which allows each lawmaker to appropriate a designated amount of money for infrastructure projects, have been unsuccessful at the Roundhouse.
All of the projects on the special session chopping block were authorized last year, when lawmakers approved roughly $933 million worth of capital outlay projects with the state’s coffers flush due to an oil drilling boom in southeastern New Mexico.
As of March, only about $88.7 million – or about 9.5% – of that amount had been spent, according to the Legislative Finance Committee.