The money legislators and the governor allocate each year for specific capital projects would become public on the Internet under a bill pre-filed by Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque.
Now, such information isn’t public. Lawmakers’ requests for infrastructure projects are available but Legislative Council won’t reveal how individual lawmakers allocate the money toward specific projects in the final capital outlay bill, telling New Mexico In Depth that such information is exempt from disclosure.
In late November, as part of the Capital Dilemma series, NMID emailed lawmakers asking them to share information about the projects they agreed to fund.
But so far, only 13 of the 111 current lawmakers who’ve sponsored projects have responded to NMID’s request. Rue is among them. Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, is the most recent lawmaker to agree to make his projects public.
Rue said the public deserves to know how legislators are spending public money. He said the current process revealing requests but not final spending decisions doesn’t make sense.
“In theory I could sign off on $20 million worth of” requests, Rue said. “I could be everybody’s best friend, and it’s great that they can’t find out whether I actually followed through with it or not.”
But Rue said he doesn’t support reform efforts advocated by Think New Mexico that would create an appointed commission to decide on capital outlay projects.
“I think it’s dangerous when we assign that task or responsibility to folks who are not elected to those positions or held accountable,” he said. “Legislators understand better than anyone else the needs of their districts.”
While he wants to keep the project decisions in legislative hands, Rue said he’d like to see the system reformed. That would include requiring full funding and better vetting of projects.
“We shouldn’t be putting money toward projects in phases,” he said. “We have a lot of money sitting there idle.”
Here are capital outlay projects provided by the 13 lawmakers so far: