Plan keeps cap­i­tal spend­ing un­fair

Trans­parency paramount in or­der to track ev­ery dol­lar spent

Albuquerque Journal - - OP-ED - BY REP. JAMES TOWNSEND ARTESIA REPUB­LI­CAN

Our con­stituents should not have to read the fine print in or­der to see how their tax dol­lars are spent and by whom. Ac­count­ing for in­di­vid­ual ear­mark­ing and cap­i­tal outlay isn’t al­ways trans­par­ent, but it should be.

His­tor­i­cally, leg­is­la­tors are awarded equal amounts of cap­i­tal outlay to take home to their dis­tricts. Each leg­is­la­tor has the abil­ity to pub­li­cize their use of those funds, which some do and some do not. If we re­ally want trans­parency, ev­ery leg­is­la­tor should pub­li­cize ev­ery cap­i­tal outlay project, ev­ery time. These ex­pen­di­tures are very im­por­tant to ev­ery dis­trict and most crit­i­cal to the smaller and sparsely pop­u­lated ar­eas. Ru­ral dis­tricts don’t have the same abil­ity as the Al­bu­querque and Ber­nalillo County ar­eas. In those more pop­u­lated ar­eas, there are many rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­a­tors to com­bine cap­i­tal outlay funds. How­ever, in ru­ral New Mex­ico each leg­is­la­tor may rep­re­sent two to six coun­ties and must di­vide his or her cap­i­tal outlay among many ar­eas.

On top of cap­i­tal outlay, there is an­other ear­mark tak­ing place in a lit­tle-known process called mem­ber ads. Mem­ber ads are a fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive awarded to some mem­bers when money is avail­able, some­times only to just a few House Ap­pro­pri­a­tion mem­bers.

Money used through these mem­ber ads re­duces the avail­abil­ity of funds to all the other leg­isla­tive dis­tricts be­cause these ex­pen­di­tures are de­ducted from the to­tal amount of sur­plus to which the rest share equally. I think this is lit­tle-known by most mem­bers and not fair to the rest, par­tic­u­larly those rep­re­sent­ing ru­ral ar­eas.

These ex­pen­di­tures should be treated as all ex­pen­di­tures. They should pass through the process trans­par­ently. Trans­parency is the process of il­lu­mi­nat­ing ev­ery­thing; noth­ing should be hid­den.

Cap­i­tal outlay should be treated equally as well. Each leg­is­la­tor in each dis­trict should be treated the same. In the New Mex­ico Sen­ate, be­cause of the num­ber of con­stituents that they rep­re­sent, mem­bers have equal amounts in cap­i­tal outlay. It should be no dif­fer­ent in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and how these mem­bers spend their money should not be “some­times trans­par­ent.” It should be trans­par­ent all the time, and the same should be true for ev­ery dol­lar spent by a leg­is­la­tor whether they are in Ap­pro­pri­a­tions or not.

This year a new process has been pro­posed (by Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe). This process would cause half the money to be trans­par­ent and ex­pose the other half to pos­si­ble dark­ness. I don’t be­lieve this is in the best in­ter­est of our state or the cred­i­bil­ity of your leg­is­la­tor. All ex­pen­di­tures should be read­ily trans­par­ent. All com­mit­tee mem­bers should be treated equally, re­gard­less of com­mit­tee as­sign­ment. Un­der this new process, it is con­trolled by the speaker and could be used to in­di­rectly help some to bring more ba­con home to some dis­tricts while other dis­tricts may be left high and dry.

If this Leg­is­la­ture wants to be dif­fer­ent from Washington, mem­bers will need to stand up and make the process re­ally trans­par­ent ev­ery time. Our con­stituents have the right to real trans­parency, not an il­lu­sion.

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