State officials address problems with capital outlay funding
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – For at least as long as Albuquerque has been talking about swimming pools, we’ve heard about reforming the way the state helps pays for projects like that.
It’s a term you might’ve heard: capital outlay. People will hear it a lot more after things start rolling in the Roundhouse.
Capital outlay is the piece of the pie that funds everything from parks to The Pit. But when projects seem to take forever, people start asking: can we do better?
Many people said capital outlay is a good way to get state money for projects we all use like North Domingo Baca’s Aquatic Center, or libraries, senior centers, and fire stations. But you can run into an issue when the person asking for the money and the legislative sponsor aren’t on the same page.
The deadline for cities, counties, and others to ask for capital outlay funding from the New Mexico Legislature is right around the corner. Many are crossing their fingers, hoping they get everything they need for a project.
“Well, look, this has been a longtime challenge for our state and even going back to when I was state auditor and a state senator, I’ve seen all sides of it. There’s some really good rules of thumb that just help a lot. The key is to fully fund a phase of a project, but a phase could just be the study or the groundwork,” said Mayor Tim Keller.
Keller says sometimes requests for sports stadiums, schools, or courthouses only win partial funding for their project. Then, those projects never get off the ground.
“It needs to be flexible. So a lot of times capital outlay you’ll see specifically for like, you know, fencing and field work. That’s not always helpful, because we may need something else, like a sewer or electricity, and we can’t use it. So we want flexible funding that is fully funding at least a phase of the project,” said Keller.
At the Roundhouse, some lawmakers say that partial funding problem may be tied to the original request.
“We have come to a point in capital outlay where we have $5 billion sitting there, some in bonds, some in cash. But the projects aren’t moving. Well their designs are not done, they are under funded or underestimated the project, or they don’t have the contractors to build the project,” said Gallup Sen. George Munoz.
Munoz says in the last few years, lawmakers have made some changes to how capital outlay works – including requiring the project to start within two years and to have the project under contract or funding has to come back
“It’s the Legislature’s responsibility to make sure things are funded correctly, but it’s also the city and the counties who are requesting the capital to apply for a dollar amount that doesn’t put the Legislature in a spot where they can’t fully fund something,” said Munoz.
KOB 4 also asked the governor to weigh in on capital outlay reform.
In the past, she’s supported changes making the process more transparent. but her staff didn’t make here available Wednesday. They sent us a brief statement that didn’t answer our specific questions:
“The governor has spoken at length about the need to improve the capital outlay process to make sure meaningful projects are funded from start to finish. We would certainly be interested in learning more about any proposals for reform from the Legislature.”