Local leaders make case for effluent water project

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Local leaders who traveled to Santa Fe Tuesday believe they have successfully saved Clovis’ $16 million wastewater recycling project.

Though it won’t be official until the end of the Legislature’s special session, Mayor Gayla Brumfield said she believes the last minute trip to talk with lawmakers paid off.

Brumfield said about $930,000 in state cash slated for the project was at risk of being cut as legislators look for ways to fill a $650 million hole in the state budget.

When local leaders heard the project was on the chopping block Monday, they high-tailed it to the state capital to plead the city’s case.

“We don’t have just millions and millions in capital outlay, so that’s something we really had to fight for,” Brumfield said.

“We just decided to do it… We just went around and found our legislators and talked through our legislators to the committee.”

Brumfield said the group included herself, City Commissioners Len Vohs and Bobby Sandoval and Clovis Community Development Director Claire Burroughes.

They documented how Clovis has already sunk almost $1 million in gross receipts tax money into the project, a large-scale investment for the community.

Without money from the state, the project would have been in dire straights, Brumfield said.

Sandoval said the group definitely got the sense the project was saved but won’t know for certain until the end of the session.

“We have a lot of confidence in our legislators up there,” Sandoval said, “but we just have to wait.”

Brumfield said other projects such as the Hull Street overpass are not a concern. Money for those projects has been committed or other similar projects are already underway.

Likewise, $5 million for expansion of Cannon Air Force Base’s Melrose Bombing Range was quickly pulled from the chopping block, she said.

The House approved a proposal Tuesday to raid cash balances of agencies and programs to help fill a $650 million hole in the state budget.

The House moved ahead with the legislation and two other budget-balancing proposals despite a lack of agreement with the Senate on a plan to erase the state’s budget deficit.

The state’s revenues are projected to fall $650 million short of what was anticipated when this year’s $5.5 billion budget was approved. Broad-based taxes such as income and gross receipts have dropped sharply because of the recession.

Lawmakers are working on other deficit reduction proposals, including spending cuts for public schools and other agencies and canceling capital improvement projects to free up money.

House Republicans urged Gov. Bill Richardson to immediately hold down spending by his agencies, outlining steps he could take administratively without approval of the Legislature.

Among them: Laying off or cutting salaries of appointed employees, selling the state’s jet and providing for the early release of nonviolent prisoners who are within three months of their scheduled release.

In the Senate, a group of progressive Democrats tried unsuccessfully to revive tax increase bills they want as part of the budget fix.

They contended the governor overstepped his authority when he ruled out tax changes during the special session.

Going along with his edict would further erode legislative powers, they said.