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Capital outlay process remains secret

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By Merilee Dannemann

Every year, the Legislature divides up a pot of money known as capital outlay, for one-time expenses such as construction, repair, and purchases of equipment. This year the total has approached a billion dollars.

The process of dividing the money is done behind the scenes, out of public view. Open government advocates have been ranting about this secrecy for the last few years.

Since New Mexico’s capital outlay structure is designed largely to provide bragging rights to legislators, the secrecy seems absurd.

But more absurd, and far more important, is the method used to divide up the money, which has received national recognition for its stupidity.

The process goes like this: legislators submit wish lists of projects to be considered for funding. Each legislator’s list is probably longer than what can realistically be funded. Legislators know some of their requests will be chopped off.

Meanwhile, the finance committees are calculating how much money in total will be available. When the numbers are crunched, the projects selected for final approval are packaged into one or two long and detailed bills. This year the main bill was Senate Bill 280.

You can read every legislator’s original list on the Legislature’s website (nmlegis.gov).


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