Via: Silver City Daily Press – Geoffrey Plant – October 4, 2019
At a luncheon hosted by the Grant County Prospectors on Wednesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham laid out her vision for the state’s capital outlay funding process in 2020 and beyond — and outlined her own funding priorities for the coming year, when the state government expects an abundance of revenue to be available for allocation to local entities.
The governor said at one point in her remarks, simply, “Capital outlay needs reform.” She cited a number of changes that she’d like to see, most of which were in line with the kind of work the Prospectors already do for their members and Grant County communities as a whole. The governor also lauded the Prospectors specifically for their work in guiding and vetting state funding requests from local governments and organizations across Grant County.
“You are incredible at capital outlay,” she told a group that included elected and administrative government officials and business leaders from across the county. The Prospectors’ work climaxes every year during the legislative session with Grant County Day at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, when the Prospectors coordinate meetings between community stakeholders and various state department leaders, and also present a list of local funding priorities to lawmakers.
“What is it that we’re spending? What is our return on investment — how do we make sure we don’t over-, or under-spend?” Lujan Grisham asked the audience, which was seated around five tables in a private room off the Western New Mexico University cafeteria. “We shouldn’t be doing all these partially funded projects, and we need to be careful that we wait so long before we finish a project that it costs 10 times more than it would have if we’d made it a priority.”
The governor also echoed comments from Grant County commissioners — who recently approved their list of Infrastructure and Capital Improvement Plan requests — when she said that local governments have to stop relying on capital outlay dollars for such basic needs as fleet vehicles. The governor also said that requests for capital outlay funding for projects that might be popular — basketball courts at senior centers was her example — sometimes didn’t reflect the true needs in a community.
“What they were telling me they needed was more in-home care, more health care,” she said. The governor said it would be tough to shift priorities, “but it is worth doing.”
Priscilla Lucero, a Prospector and executive director of the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments, told the Daily Press that she agreed that priorities need to be adjusted when it comes to capital outlay, saying, “It needs to be looked at — but that’s what the Prospectors do.”
“Last year, we had $900 million-plus in capital outlay,” the governor said. “Out of almost a billion dollars, how much do you think was for roads throughout the state?”
Lucero guessed the figure was exceedingly small.
“Zero!” the governor told the audience.
Lujan Grisham explained that roads were simply too integral to the economic health and to the overall safety of communities to put off improvements.
“With your help, I changed the priorities so that $400 million was identified in the capital package,” she told the Prospectors. “You can’t build your community without knowing your road funds are secure.”
Lujan Grisham also said that local communities should determine their own funding priorities.
“There should be local control, in partnership with the state as a whole,” she said. “We’re going to respect the priorities you come up with.”