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Gov. Signs $86 Million Public Works Bill

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez has signed into law a pared-back $86.5 million package of public works projects around New Mexico while criticizing state lawmakers for not approving a longer spending list.

The governor, backed by business and labor groups, had pushed for a package of infrastructure projects totaling $213 million.

However, a mix of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate shot down that proposal during the special legislative session that ended Sept. 24, claiming the state should keep some bond capacity available for the 2012 regular session, which begins in January.

Although Martinez said the final list of public works – or capital outlay – projects included many important jobs, she took lawmakers to task for gutting her original proposal.

“Legislators had the opportunity to support projects that would lead to New Mexico businesses hiring New Mexico businesses right away, and instead, they signaled to struggling contractors and unemployed workers that they simply need to wait,” Martinez said in a statement.

But Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, the vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said some of the projects that were excluded from the final bill were not ready to be undertaken immediately.

“Some of those projects will come up again, and we’ll have the opportunity to revisit them in January,” Cisneros said. “We’re not losing a lot of time – we’re not losing any time, actually.”

Funding for the public works projects will come primarily from bonds backed by oil and natural gas tax revenue. With Martinez having signed the capital outlay bill, those bonds can be now issued by the State Board of Finance.

Several projects would also garner federal matching funds, which could end up totaling about $30 million, Cisneros said.

Projects included in the final list include new State Police vehicles, upgrades to various state government buildings, new heating and cooling systems at three state-run prisons and renovations for the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad in northern New Mexico.

Among the capital outlay proposals passed over by the Legislature was $40 million in funding for road maintenance around the state.

The signing of the capital outlay bill, Senate Bill 10, means Martinez has now taken action on all legislation approved during the 19-day special session.

In all, Martinez signed into law five of the nine bills sent to her by the Legislature. She vetoed four redistricting-related measures.
— This article appeared on page C02 of the Albuquerque Journal