SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Every year, New Mexico approves millions of dollars for improvements around the state. These funds, called capital outlay, help fix roads, build buildings, and improve a range of public infrastructure. This year, though, one project is stirring debate.
Nestled among the many projects laid out in the capital outlay bill is $10 million for a reproductive healthcare facility in Doña Ana County. That’s a project Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has made a priority.
Lujan Grisham explained the envisioned project as a partnership with medical schools and private healthcare providers, according to the Associated Press. But that project could be a stumbling block on the capital outlay bill’s road to approval.
“I, and my friends over here . . . are supportive of this bill and the projects in it, except one,” Rep. Jason C. Harper (R-Sandoval) said in a House Taxation and Revenue Committee meeting on March 10. “I personally have a very deep cultural and personal belief that abortion is murder.”
Harper told the committee that he couldn’t support the bill because of the project, although overall, he thought the capital outlay process was “significantly improved” in terms of coming up with a bill that helped the 112 lawmakers each get funds for their own districts’ projects.
In addition, lawmakers are viewing this year’s capital outlay as a unique opportunity to fund projects that might otherwise not get funding. The state’s budget surplus could allow lawmakers to fully fund more projects than usual.
“We knew we had more funds, and this might be a once-in-a-generation type of event for us,” Rep. Doreen Y. Gallegos (D-Doña Ana) explained to the committee. “We all went in really wanting to ensure sure that we could not only start projects but finish projects we so desperately needed to finish.”
In the past, many projects were approved but delayed for years due to a lack of funds or supply chain issues. Last year, a report from the Legislative Finance Committee revealed over $1.5 billion in funds held up in stalled projects.
This year, legislators hope more projects can be funded to completion. And despite Harper’s concerns over the project planned in Doña Ana, the majority of the committee voted to approve the statewide funding. But the bill appropriating the funds will face additional debate before the session is over.