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Gov. To Take Close Look at Pork Projects

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday warned she would scrutinize the $277 million in public works projects recommendations the Legislature approved this session to cut “wasteful pork” projects that fail to address the state’s infrastructure needs.

The money encompasses about $137 million in severance tax bonding outlays – including nearly $30 million for the Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange improvement – largely appropriated by individual legislators to benefit their home districts. The total also includes a nearly $140 million general obligation bond proposal voters will consider in November to provide construction money for colleges, senior centers and community libraries.

“In addition to Paseo funding, we proposed $40 million for highway projects throughout the state, but instead we got $200,000 for a garden in Santa Fe, $25,000 for a garden in Albuquerque, $5,000 for a sign there, $2,000 for a post there, a couple of thousand for a carpet, and $80,000 for mariachi instruments … and we’re bonding these earmarks for 10 years. That’s wasteful pork,” Martinez said.

Martinez criticized the approach lawmakers took to deciding what projects warrant state funding, abandoning her recommendation to focus on projects of statewide importance and instead resorting the traditional method of allowing lawmakers each a small amount of money to “earmark” at their discretion.

“I don’t care if they’re a Republican earmark or a Democrat earmark; I intend to highlight wasteful pork and veto them because the people of New Mexico deserve better,” she said.

Capital outlay sponsor, Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, defended the included projects as a tool to address community needs.

“It’s not pork; it’s basic needs out there in the community,” Trujillo said.

Martinez said she also would review higher education projects included in $140 million general obligation bond proposal.
— This article appeared on page A07 of the Albuquerque Journal