The annual New Mexico legislative session of 2018 ends Thursday (Feb. 15) at noon.
Taos County and surrounding communities are likely to see some money come into the area for substance abuse treatment, the Gorge Bridge and other capital projects.
"All in all, I think the session was relatively quiet and uneventful, but we fared well," said Sen. Carlos Cisneros, a Democrat whose district includes Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos counties.
Gov. Susana Martinez has until March 7 to act on legislation, either approving or vetoing whole bills, or line-item vetoing parts of bills, such as the budget. Any legislation that she doesn't take action on is considered to be "pocket vetoed," or vetoed by default.
The finishing details of the $6.3 billion budget for the state will be hammered out during the last day of the session, according to Cisneros.
"We're still in a bit of a bind here," he said, noting the House and Senate have to reconcile their different priorities. He said the House is looking to fund more road projects while the Senate is trying to "backfill" holes left after last year's budget negotiations when the state took cash from schools, agencies and other funds to finance the state government.
Embedded within the budget is $30,000 for further studies of the Río Grande Gorge Bridge. The aim is to improve the safety of the popular tourist destination that is also a place where several dozen people have died by suicide.
Although it's far less than the "ideal appropriation to handle" substance abuse in Taos and Rio Arriba counties, Cisneros said, the legislature has approved $300,000 for a pilot program for evidence-based, residential substance abuse treatment of at least one year.
Currently, most residential treatment for substance abuse is either 30 or 90 days long, a period of time, Cisneros said, that leaves a lot of people in the "same atmosphere without any help." However, addicts have a hard time getting into even the short-term facilities due to shortages.
Cisneros told The Taos News the original ask was $3 million, but there was "no appetite for that expenditure." However, the $300,000 allocation has been included in the budget bill and does not need to go before either chamber of the legislature.
Among the financial bills introduced during the session was one for general obligation bonds, which are approved by voters during general elections. The projects included in these bonds are set ahead of time by the legislature.
"GO bond" projects approved unanimously by both houses of the legislature include $4.3 million requested to design, build and furnish a career center at the UNM-Taos Klauer campus on County Road 110.
"That's probably the most important [item] for us in Taos," Cisneros said.
Senior centers are also subject to the GO bond elections. Capital projects set by the legislature include $910,000 for the construction of a senior center at Picuris Pueblo, $688,200 for a new senior center in Questa and $195,000 for improvements to the Amalia senior center, which has been closed since late 2017.
Most years, the legislature passes a "capital outlay" bill that allocates state money for infrastructure improvements to local government entities and projects, like water system improvements and equipment purchases.
A bit more than $1 million has been allocated for projects in Taos County. Water districts in El Prado, Ranchos de Taos, Llano Quemado, Ojo Caliente, Lower Arroyo Hondo and Trampas all received money -- from about $25,000 to $50,000 -- to improve their water systems.
Taos County got $73,800 for the veterans cemetery and $50,000 for upgrades to Camino del Medio. The Town of Taos got $50,000 for a street sweep, and Taos Ski Valley got the same amount for its wastewater treatment plant. Taos schools received $50,000 for plumbing at Enos Garcia Elementary School while Questa got the same amount for police equipment and another $150,00 for an ambulance.
Some money that was awarded in years past has been re-allocated for other purposes. About $33,000 that was initially approved to purchase water rights has been reallocated for the new ambulance while $30,000 has been reallocated from water rights to purchase equipment for a veterans center.
Colfax County is looking at $515,000 of new capital outlay money for projects from Angel Fire to Maxwell.
The capital outlay bill, which was introduced by Carlos Cisneros, passed the house. But that's no guarantee money will make it to Taos and Questa. Last year, the funds for capital outlay projects eventually went to the general budget after much political wrangling. This year's capital outlay bill now awaits action by the governor.