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Lawmakers approve $518M capital plan

A proposed capital outlay package includes funding for school buses and other public education projects. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A $518 million capital outlay package to fund infrastructure and public works projects around New Mexico is working its way through the Roundhouse.

The state House late Tuesday voted 70-0 in favor of the legislation, House Bill 285. It goes next to the Senate.

The proposed list of projects includes some big-ticket items in Bernalillo County – including nearly $5 million for a multi-use event center and soccer stadium, $4.7 million to improve an early childhood wellness center and $3.9 million for gateway and crisis triage centers to help homeless individuals.

About $111 million in the package is designated as statewide priorities. The funding would cover $12.5 million for local economic development projects, $7 million in statewide broadband improvements and $8 million for public safety radio systems.

About $25 million would go to schools, school buses and public education projects.

The capital outlay package is primarily funded by severance tax bonds backed by future tax revenue on the extraction of oil, natural gas and other natural resources. But some projects would be paid for with cash from New Mexico’s general fund or other sources.

The Senate would have to sign off on the projects by noon Saturday to send the proposal to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. She would have line-item veto authority.

Voter approval isn’t required.

More than half the package – about $276 million – is divided three ways among the House, Senate and governor. Much of the rest is earmarked for certain purposes, such as water projects and tribal infrastructure.

Each legislator, for example, gets a certain amount they can allocate. A list of who allocates how much to each project is confidential, though lawmakers this year are weighing a bill that would make the information public.

Meanwhile, this year’s capital outlay bill also includes language imposing spending deadlines on capital outlay projects paid for by general fund dollars.

That language, which has not been included in capital outlay bills in past years, is aimed at ensuring appropriated infrastructure dollars are spent.

As of November, about $1.4 billion in funding for 2,644 different New Mexico capital outlay projects approved in previous years remained unspent, according to the Legislative Finance Committee.

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