Transportation bill weakens state’s future

State Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton

I want to tell your readers why I did not support Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership (GRIP) plan for transportation in this past special session.
The way this transportation bill was written allows the state to borrow money from expected future federal revenues to pay for roads now. We want to borrow $1.5 billion (with a b) and pay it back over 20 years. The total we will pay back will be more than $4 billion, so the interest will be almost twice what we get for roads.
It also will totally eliminate our ability to borrow money for roads for most of that 20 years. And as inflation goes up over the next several years, we will have less and less to spend on our operations and maintenance.
As we use up this money, we will not be able to handle emergency bridge repairs, routine maintenance or any improvements in non-listed roads. And the only road on the list for Curry County was the road to Broadview and Grady.
The next problem is that we have no guarantees that these roads will actually get done or when. Right now we may have a road on the list, tomorrow it may be someone else’s road.
One of the projects listed in the bill is a possible light rail from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. I believe if they actually built that light rail, it would cost more than the entire $1.5 billion.
But probably most importantly, I think, the majority of the tax impact would be borne by rural New Mexicans. The sponsors claim that most of the cost will be paid by out-of-state truckers, but if those truckers buy diesel outside of New Mexico, or bypass New Mexico all together, then who pays?
Every time you ship cattle, every time you haul a load of grain, every time you drive your diesel pickup, you pay!
You pay in higher diesel prices, higher registration fees, and higher permit fees. If your business is serviced by trucks, you will have to pay higher freight fees. And if you have a business that benefits from the trucking business, your business will get hurt, too.
You know, we could have done many of these projects without the tax increases. Just refinancing our existing bonds with lower rates would give us $350 million dollars. Changing the way we collect our gas tax could generate another $300 to $400 million. Just enforcing the laws we have on out-of-state truckers could earn another big chunk of change.
But in our hurry to draft and pass legislation in this hastily called “special session,” we didn’t want to take the time to examine all the possibilities.
All in all, we spent an entire week and wasted almost three-quarters of a million dollars, on bills that we could have done a better job on in our regular session in January. And, I believe, rural New Mexico is once again being asked to bear the burden for the entire rest of the state.

State Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, represents Curry, Harding, Quay, Roosevelt, San Miguel and Union counties. He can be contacted at 670-9311.