Capital transparency measure passes House 65-1

New Mexico’s capital outlay package funds projects throughout the state, including planned improvements to Paseo del Norte and other roads in Albuquerque, as seen in this file photo. (Jessica Dyer/Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The state House is again backing a bill that would add a dose of sunshine to New Mexico’s capital outlay process, with new optimism that the Senate will agree.

The proposal, House Bill 55, won approval 65-1 early Thursday – at least the third time similar legislation has passed the chamber with broad support in recent years.

But the measure has repeatedly failed to make it through the Senate, which has 11 new members this year following the 2020 election, perhaps leading to a different reception.

The legislation is jointly sponsored in the House by Reps. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, and Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas.

“This is truly a bipartisan bill,” McQueen told his colleagues. “We think this is the year it will also pass the Senate.”

The proposal would require the Legislature to publish a list of capital projects approved each year with details on which legislators sponsored each project and how much funding they allocated to it.

Under the current system, the final projects are published, but not how much each legislator allocated.

“As legislators I think our No. 1 job is to be transparent and accountable to our constituents,” Fajardo said.

Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, D-Albuquerque, slammed the proposal and was the lone dissenting vote. It was designed to placate “lazy bones” media members, he said, and legislators should be permitted to decide whether to release their list of projects.

New Mexico’s capital outlay process has faced criticism for years, centering on a lack of coordination between state and local governments, the absence of transparency and whether all of the money actually addresses serious state needs rather than frivolous projects.

House Bill 55 has an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately.

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