It was the final battle of the legislature: will New Mexico honor our commitments to tribes, seniors and students by funding projects non-partisan budget officials labeled “critical” in communities across the state?
The State Senate, in a rare bi-partisan move, approved the projects after months of negotiation with the governor and House Republican leaders. But that deal was scrapped in the final 48 hours of the session by Republican House leaders.
“Democrats are angry because Republicans in the House of Representatives rewrote the $264 million capital outlay bill to eliminate money for schools and senior citizens projects, moving the dollars to road projects…
“Capital outlay dollars repair roads, keep school buildings in top condition, assist tribes with their construction needs, help smaller colleges ($400,000 for Santa Fe Community College has been lost) and spread the wealth to every corner of the state. Such projects deserve better than sudden death.”
Republicans got what they wanted and they don’t seem to care about the cost.
“But what was changed in the new House version of the bill?
“Overall, Gov. Martinez and House Republicans proposed 77 percent cuts to Aging and Long-Term Services Department projects, 26 percent cuts to projects in our Native communities and 44 percent cuts to higher education.
“For example, in Valencia County (which Rep. Kelly Fajardo represents), Republicans cut $700,000 for improvements to a senior center in Los Lunas and cut $150,000 for critical infrastructure improvements on The University of New Mexico-Valencia campus. (Though Republicans made sure to add $150,000 to improve UNM’s already brand-new basketball practice facility, even though no one asked for it.)
“Martinez recently said that people are “tired of politicians” because of the ways they stifle progress. No one is more of a politician than Martinez, and nothing reflects the dysfunction currently operating in New Mexico politics like her and her Republican allies sabotaging a needed public works bill and then petulantly blaming Democrats for what was a clear Republican failure.”
This weekend, House Minority Leader Brian Egolf explained his frustration after the governor announced that she would not call legislators back to Santa Fe to fix this problem:
“House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Friday, “Why wasn’t [the governor] brokering the deal, and why wasn’t she engaged? … I think that House Republicans and the governor are more concerned about trying to find a way to blame this on Senate Democrats in next year’s election than they are about the immediate consequences of the governor’s failure to make a deal on capital outlay.
Egolf also said, “When you think about the capital outlay bill … these are things that help people who can go to community college and learn how to work in an auto shop, so that folks can be trained to be nurses. People can actually improve their chances for economic advancement. That’s gone for the year. Senior citizen services, Meals-on-Wheels vans, the senior center on Zuni Pueblo. All of that is not going to happen. On and on, these are good projects. That is what we should be thinking about.”
The next time your friends say Republican control has been good for New Mexico, remind them of this.