$500 million available for capital project

-A A +A
By Ralph Damiani

There is some good news as a result to the high fuel prices – the state has a lot of money to spend.

In fact, the Associated Press reported that there is at least a half-billion dollars available next year for Gov. Richardson and the Legislature to finance capital improvement projects across New Mexico.At least, that’s according to a report outlined to the Legislative Finance Committee.An estimated $164 million will come from bonds backed by severance taxes and at least $112 million will be available in surplus revenues from the state’s main budget account. In addition, there will be $224 million in general obligation bonds, which require voter approval.The Legislature convenes in January and a measure to pay for capital projects will be a must-do item for lawmakers.House and Senate members are able to earmark money for projects, many in their home areas. Those projects typically range from water system and school upgrades to playgrounds and recreational fields.During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers and the governor approved about $600 million for more than 4,000 capital improvements projects. Of that, about $238 million went for statewide projects. Lawmakers had received requests to finance more than $7 billion worth of projects, according to the Legislative Council Service.Lawmakers received the report on capital improvement financing as part of an update on the state’s revenue outlook. About $388 million in “new money” is available for increases in the state’s operating budget or to offset tax cuts in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts in July 2008.The LFC is a permanent budget oversight committee and will make spending recommendations to the full Legislature. The committee’s proposals serve as the foundation for the budget written during the legislative session.It will be interesting to see how lawmakers fight over this big pie. It will be even more interesting when they fight over the smaller ones to come in the years ahead.