Last year a bitter partisan fight over funding for public works projects consumed the final days of the state Legislature and was not settled until lawmakers came back in special sessions after months of negotiations.
But this year it’s different.
On Monday the state House of Representatives passed — with only one dissenting vote — a $166 million bill for projects all over the state, mostly funded by severance tax bonds. House Bill 219 now goes to the state Senate.
And earlier in the day, the House Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to recommend Senate Bill 122, already passed by the Senate, which would authorize $186 million to fund other projects with general obligation bond money. It goes now to the full House. Assuming the bill passes the Legislature and is signed by the governor, it would go to voters in November in the form of four ballot questions.
Though HB 219 passed without any negative votes, it did provoke one dispute on the floor.
When debating the bill, Democrats in the House objected to the fact that a $1.3 million request from the Administrative Office of the Courts for various projects at courts around the state was not included in the bill.
Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, said that the Senate in its amendments to the budget bill had included $800,000 for court projects and that individual legislators had funded some other court projects with their share of public works money.
Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, introduced an amendment to the bill that would have taken $1 million from money proposed for the state’s Local Economic Development Act fund. However, that amendment failed on a 33-35 mostly party-line vote.
Both bills contain millions of dollars in projects for Santa Fe.
The House bill has $7,154,722 for projects in Santa Fe and surrounding areas, the biggest item for the county being $855,000 to expand the Santa Fe Municipal Airport. The next largest project is $500,000 to plan and design the evidence center and crime lab for the state Public Safety Department.
The bill earmarks a total of $370,000 for three projects at Santa Fe Community College, including $245,000 for auto equipment purchase and installation; $75,000 to purchase a “science on a sphere” — a spherical projection system created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — and $50,000 for plant operations and maintenance.
In HB 219, the Palace of the Governors would receive $417,175 for improvements, plus another $13,000 for photo archive equipment. The bill sets aside $360,000 for the Edgewood wastewater system, while the state Department of Transportation would receive $291,000 for electrical upgrades, plus another $255,000 for restroom renovations.
There is more than $15 million for projects in Santa Fe County in SB 122. Nearly half that amount is $7 million for the first phase of the Department of Public Safety’s evidence center and crime lab. Currently, evidence and records are housed in five different facilities, while, according to a fiscal impact report, “the crime laboratory is at a crisis point with a lack of space and at high risk for cross-contamination.”
The Santa Fe projects also include $2 million for Delgado Hall renovations at the New Mexico School for the Deaf; $2 million for the Institute of American Indian Arts fitness and performing arts center; $1.5 million for Santa Fe Community College roofing and infrastructure improvements; $900,000 for Santa Fe Indian School road and drainage improvements; and $803,600 for three projects at the Mary Esther Gonzales Senior Center.