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Calls mount for a special session of New Mexico Legislature

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A growing number of cities are urging Gov. Susana Martinez to overcome an impasse and call a special session to consider funding more than $260 million in public improvement projects around the state.

The capital outlay bill stalled on the final day of the legislative session in March and much finger-pointing has followed.

Martinez initially resisted the call for a special session, saying she wanted to make sure the outcome would be different. Her office says it has been working with leaders from both parties to find a solution.

“She is hopeful that an agreement can be reached, and if that can happen, a special session would be reasonable,” Martinez spokesman Mike Lonergan said in a statement Thursday.

Legislative leaders also have been talking, but there’s no indication thus far that any agreements have been reached.

Farmington was the latest city to join the call this week, following dozens of mayors and business groups who have urged the governor to call lawmakers back into session.

If a special session is called, the Legislature needs to have approved and the governor has to sign off on a capital projects bill no later than May 15, according to the Legislative Finance Committee.

That’s because the state is required to advertise the sale of bonds for 30 days and take into account time for other procedural details, since all work on a capital outlay bill must be finished by the end of this fiscal year on June 30.

The capital outlay bill that started in the Senate called for nearly $300 million in spending. The House version called for nearly $265 million. Finance Committee documents show both versions financed about $212 million of the projects using severance tax bonds.

The biggest difference was in the use of general fund dollars for some public projects, with $45 million in the Senate version and less than $9 million in the House version.

Should the public projects bill not get hammered out in a special session, some state-operated facilities will sustain a hit for a second straight year.

Money for improvements and equipment for the veterans’ home in Truth or Consequences, hospitals, juvenile detention centers and other state facilities was left out of a nearly $400 million capital outlay bill approved last year.

Late discussions between the governor’s staff and lawmakers that year led to more than $71 million being shifted from those state facilities to various water projects, according to a post-session fiscal review.

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