Bill Would Shine Light On Legislature’s Budget Process

Five New Mexico legislators are sponsoring HB 635, a bill introducing transparency into the budget making process and holding lawmakers accountable for how taxpayer dollars are allocated and spent.

“The current budget will be in excess of $7 billion and it is more important than ever that lawmakers be more transparent about how taxpayer dollars are spent,” Melanie J. Majors, NMFOG’s executive director, said in a news release.

“HB 635 is a positive step to make the Legislature’s process to produce a state budget more transparent.  Historically the budget has been drafted behind closed doors and actions kept secret.  Even the Legislative Finance Committee in its package of reforms concluded that transparency was increased by identifying which legislators sponsor each project included in capital outlay legislation.”

The bill calls for an online, searchable list of additions and deletions, including language, that passed the legislature and the name of the legislator, state agency or the governor who proposed the addition or deletion to the general appropriation act and the amount of the addition or deletion. It also adds that any vetoes be published within 72 hours after the governor has acted or if the governor failed to approve and sign the appropriations bill.

“Because lawmakers wield such enormous power over taxpayer’s dollars, the taxpayer should know how their lawmakers are spending their money — it’s basically a matter of trust,” she said. “Passage of this bill is a great leap forward for the state and NMFOG is pleased to add its support to the long list of transparency advocates backing this effort.”

Paul C. Bandy, (R- San Juan), Gail Armstrong (R-Socorro, Catron and Valencia), Jack Chatfield (R- Colfax, Curry, Harding, Quay, Roosevelt, San Miguel and Union), Randal Crowder (R-Curry) and James Townsend (R- Chaves, Eddy and Otero) sponsored the bill.  The bill is currently in the House State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee.