NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The state legislature is responsible for appropriating billions of taxpayer dollars to programs and projects every year. Now, one lawmaker is trying to make it more transparent to the public exactly who is spending what.
Senate Bill 153 creates a searchable list of each one-time funding for projects and programs that weren’t in the normal budget. This list would include who used the money and for what. It would even include vetoes.
“This year, what we’re trying to do is put it in statute so that it’s a permanent disclosure and transparency that we don’t have to be doing it every year in the bill,” says sponsor of the bill Senator Nancy Rodriguez (D-Santa Fe).
Last year, lawmakers passed a $50 million dollar ‘junior bill’ to fund initiatives across the state; from funding to tackle the case backlog and jury trials to money for the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo. Senator Rodriguez says this is different from other lists that exist currently because it would name the legislator who used specific funds. The list would be published 30 days after the legislative session to show which funding projects were approved.
The bill also includes an emergency clause saying it would take effect immediately after the governor signs it.
“When I was new to the Senate, I was really surprised to find out Capital and Junior appropriations were not public information. And so, I think it was with Senator Tallman’s bill that capital is open to the public, which it should be because it’s public money and they should see where public money is being used and where it’s being vetoed so, bravo,” says Senator Brenda McKenna (D-Corrales).
“I understand the concerns, but I also know that it’s pretty public already. I don’t think it’s as dark money as a lot of people try to portray but I mean, we’re moving forward and making it even easier for people to figure it out so I’m gonna support it this go around,” says Senator Cliff Pirtle (R-Roswell).
This bill passed the Senate Rules Committee on a unanimous vote, eight to zero. It now heads to the Senate Finance Committee. A Fiscal Impact Report of this bill finds there would be no additional costs associated with implementing this accountability list.