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Gov. Vetoes $23 Million in ‘Wasteful Pork’

Gov. Susana Martinez slashed many of New Mexico lawmakers’ hometown projects Wednesday — and one for Navajos in Arizona — nixing nearly 200 projects worth $23 million from the Legislature’s plans.

(See the full list below to find out which ones were signed and vetoed.)

Martinez’s line-item vetoes in a $146 million bond authorization bill mean:

♦ A request to buy $75,000 worth of propane for some residents of the Navajo Nation’s Cove Chapter — located entirely in Arizona — is off the table.

♦ An $80,000 renovation plan for a Roswell community mariachi center might have to be postponed.

♦ $50,000 in new signs and artwork for Albuquerque’s International District, in the area of Louisiana SE and Central, might not be installed this year.

♦ Public schools around the state will not receive state funding to buy new gymnasium equipment for students.

♦ Santa Fe County will be looking for another way to acquire nearly $1.4 million in furniture and computer equipment for its new court building, now under construction.

Martinez has described the vetoed projects as “wasteful pork” and an inappropriate use of the state severance tax bonding funds, which are repaid over a 10-year period.

“Instead of investing in … critical regional and statewide infrastructure needs, the Legislature chose to endorse a ‘grab bag’ approach to the expenditure of state capital outlay dollars by creating hundreds of earmarks for projects with little or no vetting,” Martinez wrote Wednesday in a veto message to lawmakers.

Lawmakers, however, said many of the vetoes overlook critical community needs that have no alternative source of funding.

In all, Martinez vetoed nearly 40 percent of the projects lawmakers requested, although the $23 million the vetoed projects total represents less than 16 percent of the total $147 million requested.

The governor approved 290 of the 484 projects approved by the Legislature, including about $30 million for Albuquerque’s Paseo del Norte/I-25 interchange improvement, which she has praised as an ideal use of capital outlay.

Also included in the approval list was a $140,000 project to construct an alligator habitat at the Albuquerque zoo, a project that the governor defended as a benefit to city tourism and economic development.

The list of projects approved by Martinez on Wednesday totals $123.9 million, to be funded mostly by severance tax bonds.

No vetoes were made in the state’s second capital outlay bill that outlines about $139 million in general obligation bond projects dedicated to the state’s colleges, senior centers and community libraries. These bonds must be approved by voters in the November general election.

“What seem like pork projects to some folks are actually investments in communities in disadvantaged areas of our state, and that seems to be lost in a lot of these vetoes,” said Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque.

Keller sponsored the capital requests for improved signs in the International District and gym equipment for some Albuquerque public schools.

The requested signs, Keller said, were a important part of the revitalization of that community and intended to improve public safety. And school gym equipment has no other source of funding after being cut from the statewide public school funding formula, he said.

“This is no way to fund infrastructure projects in our state,” Keller said of the governor’s 194 line-item vetoes.

Sen. John Pinto, D-Tohatchi, who sponsored the request to buy propane for veterans in Arizona’s Cove Chapter of the Navajo Nation, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Members of the Santa Fe legislative delegation were upset about the $1.4 million courthouse funding veto — the largest single cut in the capital improvements bill.

Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said the Santa Fe courthouse money was the state Supreme Court’s “No. 1 priority” among capital spending projects for the state court system.

“This is not just desks and swivel chairs,” Egolf said. “This is security equipment and cameras that the sheriff uses to protect people.”

Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, said it was unlikely judges and other state District Court staff will be able to move into the unfurnished, new building in downtown Santa Fe, even if the $60 million county project is completed as expected near the end of the year.

Roswell-area legislators criticized Martinez’s veto of the SOY Mariachi community center improvement funding, which would have paid for improvements to the building’s bathrooms. Volunteers provide free mariachi music lessons at the center.

Other Roswell-area projects also were cut, including a $240,000 nature center building and $100,000 park improvement.

“It’s very disappointing. … It’s not sitting real good with a lot of us down here,” said Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell.

Ezzell said it wasn’t clear why the projects — buildings that could be completed with the new state money as Martinez has demanded of capital projects — were cut by the governor.

“That’s why I’m so flabbergasted that those projects were vetoed,” Ezzell said. “I’m just blown away. I don’t know what was going on there.”

The $146 million in projects in the final bill was about $10 million higher than the $137 million list reported by the Legislature. The final version of the bill included reauthorized project funding lawmakers did not report in their totals.

Journal Santa Fe Editor Mark Oswald contributed to this report.

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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