House Bill 55 adding transparency to Capital Outlay passes first hurdle

House Bill 55, making New Mexico’s public infrastructure funding process transparent, passed the House State Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee today on a unanimous vote. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (NMFOG) testified in the committee today in support of the bill sponsored by Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-Galisteo) and Sen. Bill Tallman (D-Albuquerque). 

House Bill 55 would reform the capital outlay process so that, within 10 days of the governor signing or vetoing the capital outlay bill, the legislature would publish a searchable list identifying the projects sponsored by each legislator, and how much funding each legislator allocated to each project.

“Transparency around government spending increases public trust and makes us more responsive and accountable to our voters,” said Rep. McQueen. “House Bill 55 will make capital outlay appropriations as transparent as all of our other official legislative actions.”

“Making New Mexico’s capital outlay process transparent is long overdue,” said Sen. Tallman. “This reform will help improve historically low trust in government.”

“NMFOG applauds these efforts to increase the transparency of state government.  We have been on the forefront of making the Legislature more accessible to members of the public, from opening up conference committees to webcasting legislative proceedings,” Melanie J. Majors,

House Bill 55 was supported by the nonpartisan think tank Think New Mexico, Common Cause New Mexico, the League of Women Voters of New Mexico and the American Institute of Architects – New Mexico.

Currently, New Mexico divides its available funds for public infrastructure (“capital outlay”) projects among the governor and all 112 legislators. Every legislator has sole discretion over how to allocate their portion of the funding. Once legislators create their confidential lists of capital outlay appropriations, those lists are rolled into a single bill that does not specify the sponsors for each project, or how much each legislator contributed to each project.

Unless a legislator chooses to reveal their appropriations, the public never knows which legislator appropriates money for which projects.