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Gov. calls for full funding for projects

Gov. Susana Martinez, in a speech to Albuquerque business leaders Wednesday, sounded a familiar call for New Mexico’s capital improvements system to be overhauled.

The Republican governor said state lawmakers should fully fund infrastructure projects included in the annual capital bill, not just provide partial funding.

“We need to fully fund projects,” Martinez told members of the Economic Forum at the Hotel Albuquerque.

Piecemeal funding means state dollars frequently go unspent, she added, saying, “You can’t spend it because it’s not enough (to complete the project) – so it just sits there.”

Capital outlay has received much attention recently, after a $264 million package of public works projects died on the final day of this year’s 60-day legislative session.

Martinez and other GOP leaders have blamed Senate Democrats for the bill’s demise, but top-ranking Democratic lawmakers have claimed that House Republicans were at fault for making sweeping changes to the bill just days before the session’s end.

Previous attempts – including one by Martinez’s predecessor, Democrat Bill Richardson – to change the way New Mexico takes on debt to pay for senior centers, baseball fields and other public works projects have been largely unsuccessful.

In part, that’s because the governor and other state officials can make recommendations but lack the authority to tell the Legislature how it can or cannot spend money on such projects.

Martinez, in her Wednesday remarks, said items like street signs and band instruments should not be included in the annual capital outlay package.

“Those are all really nice things to have,” she said. “But buying them with bond money does not create jobs.”

Meanwhile, the governor said discussions about a possible special session to revive and pass the capital outlay bill are ongoing.

She also said the agenda for such a session “could” include a proposed bundle of tax breaks that also died on the final day of the 60-day session.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, recently said inclusion of the tax package on a special session agenda has become a sticking point in talks between House and Senate leaders.

But Smith also voiced frustration about the current capital outlay system, saying about $800 million in such funding from previous years has been appropriated but gone unspent.