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No changes to capital outlay process

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Despite worries from local officials and state lawmakers, there will be no changes to how money is distributed to members of the New Mexico House of Representatives for local capital outlay projects.

Conversations were had about possible changes to how dollars for capital outlay would be distributed to members of the New Mexico House of Representatives earlier in the session, but none will be implemented, according to Adan Serna, a spokesperson for House Democrats.

“There have been no changes to how capital outlay dollars are distributed and members of the House will continue to be allocated an equal amount to use towards eligible projects,” Serna said in an email.

Members of the House will continue working with their constituents and stakeholders to decide how best to use these funds for their respective needs, he said.

House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, also said Saturday he thinks no changes will be made to the existing process.

Serna did not specify what changes to the capital outlay distribution process were discussed.

Capital outlay funds are money allocated to build, improve or equip physical property used by the public, according to the website of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee. Money from capital outlay is non-recurring – one-time payments – that can be used for roads, computers, museums, schools, irrigation ditches, hospitals, lands and furniture.

At their Feb. 21 meeting, the Chaves County Board of Commissioners voted 5 to 0 to adopt a resolution disapproving of possible changes to the capital outlay distribution process.

Traditionally the money for capital outlay is divided between the governor, house and senate members for projects. Shares of the Senate and House portions are divided among each lawmaker for eligible projects within their districts.

Commissioner T. Calder Ezzell Jr. said at the February Commissioners meeting that under a proposal talked about by Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, half the money the House receives for capital outlay projects would still be divided among individual members, but another half would be put aside for regional projects. A committee would then be appointed to decide what regional projects would receive funding.

State Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, confirmed in February such a suggestion was being discussed and that he and other area lawmakers saw it as a mechanism to harm rural New Mexico.

He said at the time, he and others worried the speaker would have some control over the money and the committee would be more inclined to fund regional projects in urban areas.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.