By Darrell Todd Maurina
Nearly 80 local business leaders turned out Friday morning for the annual Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast to hear state senators and state representatives from the area and present local views on what should be done at the upcoming legislative session.
“Our county is very, very unique in that we get together and try to make a unified list,” said chamber president Blake Curtis. “It is an aggressive list, but we’re an aggressive community.”
Key items on the county’s list of requested legislative actions included $150,000 for acquisition, construction, and equipping of a 7,000-square-foot building for a Clovis/Curry County Business Center and $100,000 to construct, design, and develop roads and infrastructure at the City of Clovis industrial park.
The legislators present didn’t respond directly to the chamber requests. Rep. Anna Crook of Clovis, a member of the capital outlay committee, said the legislative finance committee is recommending that the state dip into its cash reserves to help make ends meet, which she said is an unusual recommendation. Sen. Clint Harden, also of Clovis, said even the money already appropriated may need to be defended.
“This time of year, the executive branch starts looking around for money and starts looking under a lot of bushes, and it often seems that the best place to look is in the other guy’s basket,” Harden said. “The information they are looking at shows that none of the money coming into Curry County is being used for capital appropriations. You know it’s wrong, but those are the numbers that the governor is looking at.”
“One of the ways you can help us is to stay in touch and let us know what you’re doing with the money,” Harden said.
Rep. Jose Campos of Santa Rosa said a proposal to reduce the number of smaller grants could hurt rural communities.
“If we put all our funds in one basket, it looks to me like that will be even more opportunity for money to go to the Rio Grande corridor,” Campos said. “We need money in our rural areas. It’s hard to spread your capital outlay over a number of small communities, and one way to do that is the $30 million or $40 million projects.”
Campos also said the state was unfairly shifting jail costs to the counties by passing laws with sentences of 364 days — one day less than the number that makes an inmate a state prisoner rather than a county inmate.
“I know it will cost more money, but we’re passing the buck to the counties and we’ve got to stop doing that,” Campos said.
Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales closed the meeting by cautioning that the legislature needs to retain control of the budget process.
“I’ve gone through five or six governors so far, and they all say the same thing: you in the legislature don’t get anything right, and if you give me the authority, I’ll do it right,” Ingle said. “The Legislature represents the people of the state. Rural New Mexico will be on the short end of the stick if the governor gets control of the budget.”