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Gov. Spares 75 Projects From Legislative Budget Ax: $13 Million Diverted From Equestrian Center
[March 13, 2010]

Gov. Spares 75 Projects From Legislative Budget Ax: $13 Million Diverted From Equestrian Center

SANTA FE, Mar 13, 2010 (Albuquerque Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Nearly $13 million in state funding once earmarked for a state-of-the-art Albuquerque equestrian facility, and rodeo and fairground improvements statewide is being divvied up to pay for more shovel-ready projects.

The demise of the equestrian and rodeo projects -- a big-ticket initiative of Gov. Bill Richardson in 2006 -- will mean money for renovating the University of New Mexico baseball stadium, improvements at the aging Carrie Tingley Coliseum and a new border station at Santa Teresa.

Meanwhile, domestic violence shelters, water treatment plants and film and media initiatives are still in line to receive state funding.

So are more than a dozen projects ranging from new senior centers to bridges on the Navajo reservation.

Richardson spared 75 projects from the chopping block this week when he used his line-item veto authority to cut them out of a bill that cancels stalled infrastructure projects around the state. The money that had previously been appropriated to the projects will be used to prop up the state's cash reserves.

Despite the vetoes, more than 2,500 projects -- some of which remained in the startup phase four years after being funded -- were scrapped to help New Mexico cope with an ongoing budget crunch.

After Richardson's action on the bill, about $141 million will be freed up and used to bolster the state's reserves.

The bill passed by the Legislature during the 30-day session that ended Feb. 18 originally would have freed up about $148 million.

"We cannot continue to carry forward these appropriations for projects that are not creating jobs, are not providing critical infrastructure and are tying up scarce financial resources," Richardson said in his executive message after signing Senate Bill 182.

Richardson said the projects he protected had shown recent signs of moving forward.

Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, who sponsored the legislation to cancel the statewide capital outlay projects, described the governor's action as "nothing out of the ordinary." "In total, he didn't do a lot of damage to the bill," Cisneros said Friday. "It's not going to make or break the state, I suspect." The equestrian center in Albuquerque originated in 2006 when the Legislature, at the governor's urging, appropriated $12 million for the facility.

The center originally was slated to be built at Albuquerque's Mesa del Sol, but plans changed in 2008 and Richardson instead wanted to put it at Expo New Mexico, home of the State Fair.

Richardson ordered a freeze on all unfinished capital outlay projects last October. Projects that didn't have sufficient funding or a contract in place, along with those that had been stagnant for several years, were added to a list lawmakers scrutinized during the legislative session.

Lawmakers did approve 25 new capital outlay projects using severance tax bonds during a special session held last week and shifted funding for a number of other projects.

The new projects include $6 million for a Hewlett-Packard support center in Rio Rancho.

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