Capital outlay bill positive for area
While funds were not approved for a major street project and a bill fell through that would have provided money for transporting parole violators, Clovis-area officials still believe the 30-day Legislative session that ended Thursday was a good one.
“I think we came out looking very good,” said Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis.
Assuming the governor signs the capital outlay bill, Clovis and Curry County together received nearly $6 million during the session, a figure that’s expected to touch a variety of areas and needs.
In addition, Cannon Air Force Base received $2 million in funding for an overpass and projects that are expected to help keep the base thriving during an upcoming base realignment process.
Clovis City Manager Raymond Mondragon said the capital outlay news is good news.
“I applaud our representatives and senators who got us all of these funds,” he said.
Noteworthy projects for which the city is expected to received funds include Play Inc. ($375,000), where the natatorium that Clovis High School is now using for its swim team will be renovated.
Also, the city’s Main Street program is pegged for $180,000.
The area also received money for the city’s industrial park and funding for roads leading to the Southwest Cheese plant and the development of wastewater treatment for the cheese plant.
Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa, thought money that will go to help the cheese plant was critical for the area.
“I think Clovis was a real winner,” he said.
Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, also was pleased with what eastern New Mexico received.
“I think we did real well,” he said. “There’s a lot of money going toward Clovis and Portales. I think overall we got some pretty substantial money allocated.”
But not all news concerning capital outlay was good for Clovis.
The city didn’t get a single dollar of funding for West Seventh Street. Officials were seeking $800,000 for the project.
A bill sponsored by a local lawmaker that looked like it would have a good chance in the House and Senate was tabled about midway through the session.
The legislation submitted by Harden would have been a huge relief for counties who are dealing with rising and sometimes out-of-control jail costs.
The proposal would have provided $2 million for the transportation of parole violators. The legislation would have appropriated funds to the state’s Corrections Department to reimburse counties for the expense of incarcerating and transporting parole violators.
Harden said the state needed to do more in the future to help with high jail costs.
The financial-impact on jails could be eased a bit if the governor signs a bill that would give counties the authority to impose additional taxes.
Counties would be able to raise their gross-receipts tax rate by an additional one-sixteenth percent under legislation, which got the support of both the House and Senate.
Those who back the legislation say the tax is needed because counties need to somehow cover growing governmental costs.
Harden said he thought the tax would help.
Some are concerned with the tax because counties could impose it without voter approval.
What lawmakers and officials are applauding though is that $300,000 will be coming to the county’s jails. The money was approved through the capital outlay bill.
“We will have quite a bit of money for the jail,” Campos said. “We did real well for the jail.”
One of the bigger winners in the session was the military. And Cannon Air Force Base is on top of that list.
The base, through several funding areas, received $2 million. Statewide, bases received $10 million.
Legislation for the base was submitted by Campos.
Funds for a special commission that will try to keep the state’s bases from being closed were approved, along with $1 million for an overpass leading to Cannon.
The bill implements tax cuts for military testing and equipment at the base. It also sets up the framework for a commission that will help keep bases in New Mexico.
There’s also money tucked away in the budget for the base.
The budget would provide $400,000 to support the Office of Military Base Planning and Support and the Military Base Planning Commission.
Harden said he thought lawmakers showed just how dedicated they are to keeping military bases alive.
“We showed our support for bases in New Mexico,” he said.
Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, was also pleased with what lawmakers were able to do for the bases.
“The base is vital to our community,” she said. “We just hope that it doesn’t get on the (closure) list.”
A variety of stricter penalties for DWI offenders were approved during the session, all of which are expected to be signed by the governor.
• Tougher penalties have been restored for repeat offenders
n It would be a felony now to supply alcohol to minors
But what wasn’t approved is a move that would require interlocks to be put in every car sold in the state by 2008.
“Thank God the interlock bill failed,” Moore said.
Many had concerns the interlock bill would mean bad news for consumers. It was expected the locks would cost $600 for each car, an estimated expense of about $500-600 million statewide.
“I didn’t like the interlock bill at all,” Campos said. “I thought it was ridiculous to penalize people who don’t drink. And there just seemed to be way too many ways to get around it.”
The governor plans to name a 10-member committee that includes House Judiciary Chairman W. Ken Martinez, D-Grants, to explore how to increase interlock use and make them less expensive.
Campos said he knew people wanted lawmakers to implement even harsher penalties than they did for DWI offenders.
Next to the last-minute fight over the food tax, what to do about the state’s Medicaid financial mess was probably the most controversial issue that lawmakers considered.
• The state budget calls for $40 million in cost-cutting for Medicaid.
• Lawmakers gave the OK to a plan that would require groups to better manage and contract for behavioral services.
But some, like Crook, believe there are other ways to address the Medicaid crisis.
“I think there are other ways to address Medicaid rather than just continuing to put money into it,” she said. “I think we could make some cuts. I don’t mean throw people out on the streets, but I do think there is a lot of abuse in the system.”
Moore said he thinks the state has “lost its mind.”
“As long as oil and gases are high we will be gutless in making decisions,” he said.
Moore said he thought lawmakers put off hard decisions concerning Medicaid.
With so many other priorities and issues taking up time during the session, at times the budget was forgotten.
But the House and Senate did agree upon a budget, one that tops $4.4 billion.
The budget has more spending than last year’s — a 6.6 percent, or $271 million, increase in spending.
In addition to numerous tax increases, an allocation of almost $4.2 million to operate the governor’s office was a touchy topic among lawmakers.
The budget includes an additional $231,400 for the governor’s mansion this year.
Moore voted against the budget because he thought it spent too much.
“I just don’t think it’s responsible,” he said.
Capital outlay breakdown
Here is a list of capital outlay projects approved by New Mexico legislators in the session completed last week. Projects must still be approved by the governor:
• Clovis Municipal School District education technology, $100,000
• Clovis-Curry County Business Development Center, $225,000
• Curry County Adult Detention Center renovation, $300,000
• Curry County Adult Detention Center expansion, $30,000
• Curry County Road K improvement, $100,000
• Curry County road repair and chip seal, $100,000
• Curry County road and street improvements, $121,750
• Grady Municipal School District activity bus purchase, $85,000
• La Casa Senior Center addition, $30,000
• Curry County La Casa Family Health Care Center addition, $100,000
• New Mexico Highway 467 overpass, $100,000
• Ranchvale Elementary School education technology repairs, $30,000
• Texico Municipal School District auditorium upgrade, $80,000
• Cannon Air Force Base overpass and entrance, $300,000
• CCC-Allied health programs building, $100,000
• Clovis Business Development Center purchase, design, construction and remodel, $50,000
• Clovis Head Start kindergarten playground equipment, $90,000
• Clovis Industrial Park roads and infrastructures, $272,000
• Clovis Industrial Park wastewater, $1.5 million
• Clovis Life Saver Food Bank equipment, $50,000
• Clovis Life Saver Food Bank warehouse construction, $20,000
• Clovis Natatorium and Recreation building renovation, $375,000
• Clovis Senior Center vehicles, $90,000
• Clovis Street improvements, $50,000
• Clovis Main Street streetscape project, $185,000
• Curry County Road 4 improvements, $1 million
• New Mexico State University-Clovis Agriculture Science Center Cooperative Extension service, $50,000
• NMSU-Clovis Agriculture Science Center equipment, irrigation and barn, $30,000
• Grady Fire Department defibrillator, $10,000
• Melrose Pool upgrade, phase two, $70,000
• Melrose water tank, $150,000
• Texico Fire Department offices and training room construction, $50,000
Total funding for Curry County capital outlay projects: $5,843,750