By Steve Hansen and Thomas Garcia
Quay County communities are taking in stride the New Mexico Legislature’s failure to pass its annual “capital outlay” bill that specifies local projects funded through taxes on oil, gas and mineral extraction.
Every year, counties, cities and other local government agencies compile “wish lists” of projects to be funded through the capital outlay process. What gets funded and amounts allocated vary greatly from session to session.
The 2015 Legislature’s $264-million capital outlay bill, which would have been reduced anyway as oil production shrinks in the face of declining prices, failed completely Saturday as partisan bickering muddied the legislative session up to the last minute of the last day.
According to state Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, the bill, which is usually the product of negotiations among the state Senate, the House and the governor’s office, came out of the Democratic-controlled Senate with the Senate’s version of the governor’s choices. When the bill reached the Republican-controlled House, however, the House restored Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s original choices, and sent it back to the Senate, where the bill died on the legislature’s last day.
Quay County government officials were not optimistic about the bill’s prospects this year, and officials planned accordingly, Richard Primrose, county manager, said.
The failure to pass the bill, however, may delay construction on a new bridge over the Canadian River on U.S. 54 at Logan, he said, but the $250,000 the county sought in the capital outlay bill would have covered only a very small portion of the planning, design and construction cost of the $20-million bridge project. The bridge’s construction is tentatively scheduled for 2017 and 2018. Federal funds allocated through the New Mexico Department of Transportation are expected to fund the project.
Tenth Judicial District Judge Albert Mitchell had hoped for $200,000 to improve security for court employees at the Quay County Courthouse.
The price tag is high, he said, because improvements must be made without compromising the courthouse’s status as a historic building.
Mitchell said, however, that he will submit the plan again next year for capital outlay funding.
Also put on hold were $1million in planning, design and construction funds to improve safety on state Route 469 between Grady and Logan.
Quay County also had requests in for $85,000 to purchase a skid steer loader and attachments, and $195,000 to purchase a utility truck.
These projects, Primrose said, can be delayed. He said, however, he is hopeful that the legislature might re-convene to reconsider the capital outlay bill and other legislation.
The Arch Hurley Conservancy District’s manager, Franklin McCasland, was able to shrug off $150,000 that the district had requested for purchasing equipment and some water trucks, but he, too, would welcome a special session to reconsider the capital outlay bill.
Dr. Thomas Newsom, president of Mesalands Community College, said the college will have to spend more operational funds on short-term repairs and maintenance in the campus’ foundry building, since the college’s $1.3 million request for a new roof over the building was turned down.
While due for replacement, he said, the roof is still “highly functional.”
The roof project and a Mesalands request for $2.7 million to construct a residence hall for college students were taken out of the bill before its final version came up for a vote on Saturday.
“We’ll just continue to move through the process,” Newsom said.
Jared Langenegger was equally able to shrug off a denial of $170,000 to fund a new trash truck for the city.
“We will just continue to seek other sources of funding and make repairs on our existing equipment,” he said.
The city had also requested $400,000 to replace the leaking 700,000-gallon water tank on Center Street, but that had been removed before the final capital outlay bill was ready for approval over the weekend.
Another request that was taken out of the bill before its final version reached whole-legislature votes was $500,000 for water system improvements for San Jon.