House passes capital bill with a few questions about process

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With a bipartisan 62-0 vote, the New Mexico House of Representatives sent legislation worth $295 million for brick-and-mortar projects and roads around the state to Gov. Susana Martinez for her signature.

But unlike in the Senate, there was serious discussion of the bill, with debate starting at 3:40 p.m. and ending at 4:15 p.m.

Two Native American lawmakers rose to vocalize their concern about one provision in the 200-page bill.

Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, told her colleagues she was disappointed that the bill takes $2 million from the state’s Tribal Infrastructure Fund to pay for water rights.

“It makes the tribes pay for a portion they have already paid for,” Louis, a Native American, said of the state’s Native American communities.

“It puts a burden on the poor,” which she said New Mexico has become too comfortable doing.

Rep. James Madalena, D-Jemez, rose to oppose using the $2 million from the Tribal Infrastructure  Fund, too.

But Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage, R-Kirtland, who is Navajo, praised the move, saying concerns have been raised that money in the Tribal Infrastructure Fund has not been spent and it is good to allocate the $2 million.

The vote on the capital outlay bill took place four hours after the New Mexico Legislature convened the special session.

Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe, stood to commend the House for doing as much in one day as the Legislature did during the 60-day session.

“When you put politics aside and start thinking of the general public, you can do so much,” Varela said.

As in the Senate, House lawmakers didn’t really question the larger process by which New Mexico allocates money for brick-and-mortar projects.

Earlier this year, one university professor who studies capital spending — the process by which  states pay for brick-and-mortar projects — told New Mexico In Depth that “It certainly wouldn’t be in the textbooks about how to do capital improvement planning. In fact, it would be the illustration about how not to do capital improvement planning.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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