Lawmakers address local issues

Editor’s note:
New Mexico’s 2005 Legislature kicks off a 60-day run on Tuesday and lawmakers are expected to address dozens of issues, from tax cuts to economic development and get-tough laws aimed at drunken drivers.
Gov. Bill Richardson is even expected to push a plan for promoting rodeo. That idea is going over well at Mesalands Community College, which has one of only four college rodeo programs in the state.
The Quay County Sun recently asked area lawmakers to address an issue they consider important in this legislative session, which wraps up on March 19.
Here’s what they have to say:

• Sen. Clint Harden

A fundamental component of quality of life is the economic health of a region. Issues related to job creation or economic development are difficult because the marketplace is incredibly competitive.
Arguably one of the more difficult areas for government involvement is economic development. It has been said that job creation should be the function of the private sector and not government. In today’s mix of private sector and government partnerships, New Mexico competes to maintain its existing businesses while other states are raising the bar by offering new incentives to lure our businesses to their states.
In the New Mexico Legislature, I have requested an economic development strategy that is sustainable, one that invests in businesses that are committed to invest in our communities and our workforce over the long haul.
As I talk with business owners, particularly those located in rural areas of the state, I recognize that one of their primary obstacles to business growth and development is access to market-rate capital. Unfortunately, the capital markets in rural areas are not as efficient as they are in the metropolitan areas.
In fact, the eastern side of this great state has lost out on several economic development opportunities precisely for this reason. That is why I will be actively supporting an initiative that will be making its way through the maze of the state capitol this next legislative session.
The initiative, called the SMART money Initiative, proposes to leverage public/private partnerships to create greater access to capital for New Mexico businesses.
The SMART Money Initiative will marry the state’s bond bank, the New Mexico Finance Authority, with private lending institutions to structure debt financing packages for businesses wanting to expand or relocate to New Mexico.
Under the proposal, private lenders would continue to be the direct banker. The state would participate in a loan or guarantee some portion of the total amount. In this way, the level of risk would be lower for the private lender, giving the incentive to provide access to capital.
The New Mexico Finance Authority would evaluate each of the proposals to ensure they are sound.
After the New Mexico Legislature passes this initiative, New Mexico will be on par with surrounding states.

Sen. Clint Harden is a Republican from Clovis. Contact him at 389-1248 or by e-mail:
charden@theosogroup.com

• Rep. Brian Moore

A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there … pretty soon you’re talking real money. Even though our budget is one of the smallest in the country, it’s still real money and it comes from your pocket. How we spend your hard-earned money is usually the biggest challenge we face during our sessions. There is no shortage of opinions about how to use those dollars.
We have to pass a balanced budget. That means we can’t spend more than we bring in. So we make estimates about how much that is, trying to take into account all the ups and downs we might have between now and July, 2006.
It’s even worse when a large part of the taxes we collect come from the oil business. We’re having to guess on the price of oil over a year from now.
Since most of us believe it’s better to have more money than you thought you did, our guesses tend to be conservative.
The hardest part is deciding how to spend the money we believe we do have. In next year’s budget, if we subtract what we’re spending on programs now, we’ll have about $300 million of “new money.” That seems like a lot, until you realize that we have to spend over $100 million to pay for education and teachers’ raises we’ve already promised.
We also have to spend another $100 million on Medicaid, mostly to replace money we’re losing from the federal government. All of a sudden, we’re down to less than $100 million to do everything else. The total budget requests will be in the billions, so you can imagine how difficult it is trying to keep 112 legislators (and 1.6 million New Mexicans) happy with our budget.
If you have any ideas, please let us know.

Rep. Brian Moore is a Republican from Clayton. Contact him at 374-9681 or 374-2312 or by e-mail:
brian@ranchmkt.com