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Gov. Calls Garden ‘Wasteful Pork’

SANTA FE, N.M. — A $201,000 appropriation for the Santa Fe Botanical Garden’s Museum Hill project approved by the Legislature this week apparently is doomed when Gov. Susana Martinez starts wielding her veto pen.

After the Legislature adjourned Thursday, the governor specifically cited the Botanical Garden outlay when talking about “wasteful pork” she may veto.

Such projects, the governor told reporters, fail to address the state’s critical infrastructure needs.

“We proposed $40 million for highways 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.”

The Botanical Garden, a nonprofit, is working on a project along an arroyo on Museum Hill after obtaining a long-term lease from city government for most of the 12-acre site in 2006. The groundbreaking ceremony was in 2011 after eight years of planning and a bike trail and historic bridge from San Miguel County have been installed.

The garden organization – which has been operating two other preserves in wetlands and mountain zones south of town for years – has done well at the Legislature before.

It got capital outlay appropriations in 2006, 2007 and 2008 for the Museum Hill project and had used $330,000 in appropriations by 2010, according to financial statements available online.

Cathy Kalenian, board president for the Botanical Garden, said in a statement Thursday in response to Journal questions about the governor’s remarks:

“The Santa Fe Botanical Garden has 20 years experience educating children… When built, the new Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill will serve every child in Santa Fe. Education outside the classroom is an essential component to keep children engaging in learning. Beyond that, it will create an economic boost to the city, with new jobs and a projected 40,000 new visitors per year. Planning and design has been completed and this project is shovel ready.”

The $201,000 the garden was hoping for this year would be used for grading, utilities, irrigation, stone retaining walls, a courtyard and ramadas and about 100 trees, the nonprofit said.

The total cost of building the Museum Hill garden is expected to be around $7.5 million. By last fall, garden officials said they had raised $1.7 million, including the prior state appropriations.

The $137 million capital outlay bill the Legislature sent Martinez this week includes $14.8 million for Santa Fe County.

The largest appropriation, $6 million, would go to improve state government’s Manuel Lujan office building and another $3 million would go for dormitories at the state Law Enforcement Academy.

The bill also includes $332,000 for grandstands and other work at the Oscar Huber ballpark in Madrid.

Pojoaque Pueblo would receive $115,000 for its Poeh Center, $50,000 for a “ceremonial facility” and $150,000 for the pueblo wellness center.

More than $40,000 is allocated for the Santa Fe Boys and Girls Club.

The Santa Fe Farmers Market was approved for $204,000 for pavilion improvements, and the bill includes $440,000 to renovate the Santa Fe police station.

The bill has funding for numerous acequia, road and community facility projects. Some of the northern New Mexico appropriations are $1.5 million for the Mora County government complex project; $300,000 for the Española library; $300,000 to buy buses for Luna Community College and $205,000 for a public school weight room in Las Vegas. N.M.; and $200,000 for construction work on Cabresto Dam in Taos County.