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Other projects trump park for state funding

In light of the recent discussion of the Rio Rancho capital funding request from the Legislature, we want to explain how the capital outlay process works and how a project that is not considered critical by some people within a district might still receive well-intended funding.

Legislators primarily focus on and fund projects within their districts. In our case, representing House Districts 60, 57 and 44 in Rio Rancho, we took input on proposed projects from the mayor, the city council, the county, the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority, Rio Rancho Public Schools and numerous constituents.

Any New Mexican can present a project to members of the Legislature and request capital outlay funding. We each signed on to around 20 different projects.

However, just last week the actual amount of funds available to each legislator was determined, and that amount was not sufficient to fund all these projects.

We then met together with all Sandoval County legislators to pool our resources and prioritize projects. First and foremost, we evaluated each project for potential positive impacts on those who live in our districts and (for those that) have the possibility of being completed in one capital funding cycle.

But legislators often support projects outside their districts if they believe those projects can be beneficial to their constituents or New Mexicans in general.

State parks, higher education institutions, museums – these are some examples of projects that are accessible and valuable to all, regardless of their location, and that often receive funding from outside the district in which they are located.

The all-inclusive park is such a project. While those of us in the Sandoval County delegation feel the park is a worthy endeavor and we support and appreciate the governor’s $1.4 million contribution last year, we feel there are more pressing needs in Rio Rancho at this time.

Repairs for leaking water lines, renovations at Fire Station 1, improvements and equipment for our schools, rights of way for Paseo del Volcan from I-40 to Unser Boulevard – these seem to us to be the most critical projects for our community at this time, and these are the projects that have our support.

The all-inclusive park will likely receive support from other legislators who recognize the park for what it can be – a benefit to constituents from many districts. It is our hope and belief that the remaining funding necessary for the park can be raised from the private sector after this legislative session.

There has been debate recently over whether the park project is actually a “need” or a “want,” with strong opinions on both sides. We believe it is both. Certainly, it will serve the great number of children from around the state who have disabilities and have limited venues for recreation.

As for the potential economic benefits to Rio Rancho, one need only look next door – Albuquerque’s Explora museum draws families from throughout the state, and the all-inclusive park has the potential to do the same for our city.

But we also believe our limited capital outlay funding is best spent this year to address other needs in the community, those that would have the widest reach and provide the greatest benefit for the constituents of Districts 60, 57 and 44.

We love serving Sandoval County, and as always, we cast our votes and make our decisions with you in mind each time.

This op-ed is also signed by State Reps. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, House District 44, and Jason Harper, House District 57.
— This article appeared on page 02 of the Albuquerque Journal