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Battle Over Pork May Heat Up

SANTA FE — The beef over pork between Gov. Susana Martinez and the New Mexico Legislature continues to simmer.

The state Board of Finance, which Martinez controls, plans to send a letter to all 112 lawmakers recommending changes to the system the state uses to appropriate funding for public works projects statewide.

“I think there needs to be a clear message to the Legislature that the public is not seeing this as a smart way of spending our money,” Martinez said last week.

The Board of Finance’s approval of the letter came one week after Martinez line-item vetoed nearly 200 projects worth $23 million from a $146 million public works package approved by the Legislature during this year’s session.

Meanwhile, a pair of veteran House Democrats, said in their own letter the Governor’s Office missed the deadline for submitting its proposed list of projects and made minimal attempts to contact legislators before the vetoes were enacted.

However, one of those Democrats, Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe, said last Wednesday that he agrees the capital outlay process needs to be overhauled.

“We just need a better process, like we have with the budget,” said Varela, vice chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee.

Previous attempts — including one by Martinez’s predecessor, Democrat Bill Richardson — to change the way New Mexico takes on debt to pay for senior centers, baseball fields and other public works projects have been largely unsuccessful.

In part, that’s because the governor and other state officials can make recommendations but lack the authority to tell the Legislature how it can or cannot spend money on such projects.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal