Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales applauded the Legislature for passing a $166 million capital projects bill that includes money to build a new gate at the Santa Fe Municipal Airport.
The Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously to pass House Bill 219, which funds hundreds of projects around the state, mostly through severance tax bonds. The legislation is headed to Gov. Susana Martinez for her signature.
“With it passing and with the governor’s signature, we can expand the airport, which means more investment for tourism, film and small business in Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico,” Gonzales told The New Mexican after the vote.
The bill includes $855,000 for the airport project.
Earlier Wednesday, the mayor said the city expects to begin this spring with another airport project paid for with a previous $800,000 appropriation from the Legislature. This involves building a new passenger waiting area, as well as new restrooms beyond the Transportation Safety Administration checkpoint.
The new money, if the bill is signed by the governor, would build a new gate at the airport.
“With the new addition, we can begin to market the airport to more airlines,” Gonzales said. He said the city hopes to establish flights between Santa Fe and Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago. This, Gonzales said, will help attract more film projects to the city and will help bring more tourists here.
The airport currently has flights to and from Denver and Dallas.
Last September, American Airlines, which had been running flights between Santa Fe and Los Angeles, dropped that service. The city for nearly a year has been courting other airlines to bring back service to Los Angeles.
HB 219 also sets aside more than $7.1 million for brick-and-mortar projects in Santa Fe County.
After the airport appropriation, 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.
Although no senator voted against the bill, the debate over HB 219 was lengthy. Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, spoke for nearly a full hour trying to amend the legislation, which he said used funds that should have gone to the state Water Trust Fund for a variety of projects around the state. His amendment to remove projects, totaling $6.7 million, was supported by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.
But Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, argued that amending the bill just hours before the end of the session would jeopardize the passage of the bill.
On the other side of the Roundhouse, the House passed Senate Bill 122, which would authorize ballot questions on the November ballot that would provide $186 million to fund other projects with general obligation bond money. It was awaiting a final vote of concurrence in the Senate, which was expected.
There is more than $15 million for projects in Santa Fe County in that bill, which already passed the Senate.
Nearly half that amount is $7 million for the first phase of the Public Safety Department’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 road and drainage improvements at the Santa Fe Indian School; and $803,600 for three projects at the Mary Esther Gonzales Senior Center.