Former state Rep. Philip R. “Bob” Grant went from appointee to the Legislature to Republican candidate for governor in a span of seven years, also building a legacy as a protector of New Mexico’s $4.7 billion Severance Tax Permanent Fund that lasted even after he left the Roundhouse hallways.
Grant, an Albuquerque geologist in private life, died in Albuquerque earlier this month at age 84.
Political colleagues remember Grant as a dedicated advocate for his constituents when he served in the Legislature between 1971 and 1978.
“He just had the way about him to get along with everybody, and yet, try and bring them over to his point of view,” said former Republican Rep. John Bigbee of La Mesa.
Grant, who joined the Legislature after an appointment by the Bernalillo County Commission, built his reputation on an expertise of New Mexico’s oil and gas resources.
After studying geology at UNM in the 1950s and later working in the state’s oil and gas industry, Grant recognized the industry as a key source of prosperity for the state.
But Grant was quick to remind colleagues that New Mexico’s resources were finite. As an unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor in 1978, Grant said he joined the Republican primary election race to bring energy issues into the mainstream political debate.
Grant, as a lawmaker, contended that greater shares of the state’s severance tax royalties should be set aside with strict rules limiting lawmakers’ options to tap into the account as a rainy day fund.
The state has since rolled back many of the restrictions Grant and other lawmakers established to ensure the Severance Tax Permanent Fund’s long-term growth, cutting the annual deposits into the fund from 50 percent of severance tax revenues down to just 5 percent, with the rest being used to repay bonds for local infrastructure projects.
Years after leaving the Legislature in 1978, Grant continued to weigh in on the state’s management of the fund. Grant regularly communicated with lawmakers and members of the State Investment Council about the fund and occasionally wrote op-ed articles in local newspapers calling for more prudent management of the fund.
Former House Minority Leader Hoyt Pattison of Clovis said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle appreciated his candid nature amid the political debate.
“I think he got along very well (with other lawmakers) as long as they didn’t take offense at him standing by his principles,” Pattison said. “And Bob was direct. If he wanted to tell you how he felt, he did it.
“I think people appreciated it. Democrats, and of course Republicans, appreciated the fact that when Bob said something, that’s the way it was,” Pattison said.
An example of that bipartisan approach was Grant’s efforts in the early 1970s to crack down on the Legislature’s ability to conduct its business behind closed doors. Grant joined with former Democratic Rep. Dan Lyon of Albuquerque to co-sponsor legislation that barred the practice. Despite several years of failure, the effort to force public legislative meetings ultimately passed.
“Bob Grant was a very intellectual individual, and he was an intellect in a nonintellectual (legislative) body,” Lyon said.
Grant’s life and work will be honored during a celebration of his life Dec. 29 at Hotel Albuquerque in Albuquerque from 2 to 5 p.m.