Council outlines state legislative priorites

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By Jennifer Garcia

  Legislators are off to a running start as they convene for a 60-day session next week. They are starting the session with a $450 million deficit staring them down. One of the topics during Tuesday night’s county council meeting was the state agenda.

  The county has many relationships with the state and federal government that are deemed important. In addition, both state and federal governments regulate a variety of the county’s functions. Not only must the county continuously work to comply with, understand and provide input to state and federal laws and regulations that have an impact on their operations, but they must also provide input to federal and state laws that can impact their activities.

  Annually, the county council adopts a federal agenda, as well as a state agenda. These documents are used as a guide for the county’s intergovernmental efforts and federal and local level. The agendas were developed through their respective council committees late last year in order to recommend county priority topics.

  The county has listed the following Capital Outlay requests in priority order on their state agenda:

•    West Jemez Bypass Road: $4 million (Governor’s request)

•    Camp May Phase II fire hydrants: $350,000 (received $200,000 in prior year, requesting balance)

•    Visitor Information Center, White Rock: $285,000

•    SR 4 White Rock road improvements: $400,000

•    White Rock treatment plant planning study: $100,000

•    DP Road sewer: $883,285

•    Los Alamos wastewater bio-solids recycling facility: $975,000

•    Trinity Drive/DP Road alignment: $300,000

•    Los Alamos Canyon reservoir rehabilitation: $520,293

•    Diamond Drive Phase III: $400,000

•    Diamond Drive Phase IV: $800,000

•    Knecht Street: $589,638

Court/jail replacement: $500,000

  In addition, the county is asking for continued funding for the operation of Park and Ride; widening of NM 4 (Rover Blvd. to NM 502); funding of telecommunications infrastructure capital improvements; legislation that enhances affordable housing programs; and NMAC and NMML legislative priorities.

  The county also plans to monitor the following:

•    Any changes to municipal revenue legislation, such as proposals for local governments to “swap” GRT distribution for State income tax distribution

•    Healthcare policy and financing legislation

•    Other legislation directly affecting Los Alamos county and/or its ability to serve its citizens

The county plans to oppose the following:

Changes to the state school funding formula that would adversely impact Los Alamos Public School District

Proposals that would eliminate or reduce the GRT revenue to the county from LANL-related services

Legislation that would adversely impact indigent healthcare revenues received by the county or program provisions that would adversely impact their effective use.

  Once councilors had the opportunity to discuss the agenda, Councilor Mike Wismer made it clear that he was not in favor the West Jemez Bypass Road. “In my continuing effort to drive a stake through the heart of that bypass project … I don’t think it’s a proper use of $4 million at this point,” he said.

  Councilor Nona Bowman disagreed with Wismer and felt that the project should be discussed at a later date. “I don’t think we should make a decision on the bypass right now without the public being able to weigh in,” she said. “I’m very concerned that the public didn’t know this might be on the agenda tonight.”

  Councilor Vincent Chiravalle concurred with Wismer and said, “I have serious reservations about the bypass road. The effort would be better served to regain reallocation for the money that could be better used somewhere else.”

  Councilor Robert Gibson disagreed with Wismer and Chiravalle and said that if council abandons the effort to get the money appropriated for the project, then the project would die. “If we give $2 million back, we give it back, period,” he said. “We’re not asking the governor for new money. We’re asking him for what he already promised.”

  Because of Bowman’s concern in the public having a say on the project, she suggested that it be discussed at an upcoming council meeting, so that the county would have time to advertise it.