Rio Arriba County Officials Host Legislators to Prepare for Upcoming Legislative Session

On October 3, Rio Arriba County (RAC) hosted state officials to speak about legislative priorities for fiscal year 2014-2015 (FY14-15). Attendees included Senator Richard Martinez, Senator Carlos Cisneros, Representatives Carl Trujillo, Stephanie Garcia-Richard and Debbie Rodella. Senator Benny Shendo, and Representative James Roger Madalena were also invited. 

“This gathering is intended so we can get your guidance, your reaction and your response on how we should proceed through the legislative process,” said RAC Commission Chair Alfredo Montoya. “We need to work closely with you in addressing many of the needs and issues we have.”

Montoya went on to give a brief synopsis about specific resources needed for local hospitals and clinics, funding for North Central Solid Waste Authority (NCSWA), and substance abuse. RAC managers, department directors, and RAC elected officials also addressed legislators on healthcare, economic development and capital projects.

The Gross Receipt Tax (GRT) intercept by the state was also a topic of discussion as RAC’s Health and Human Services Director, Lauren Reichelt, spoke to legislators about concerns about local county government losing control over funding for healthcare services such as indigent care and inmate care.

“The counties that have imposed tax-use for healthcare by in large don’t want to comingle with other counties,” replied Senator Carlos Cisneros. “We don’t want funds raised in this county…to go to other counties.” 

Tomas Campos, RAC Manager emphasized on local economic development and told legislators that the key to creating a business-friendly community was partnering with other local entities. Chris Madrid, newly hired RAC Economic Development Director, also spoke to that point and explained that a partnership between RAC, the City of Española and Siete Del Norte was taking place to create a food hub in Española, expressing the importance of agriculture in the county. “By increasing the value chain we can get passed commodity prices and get more margin for farmers,” he said.  Leakage was another topic touched on by Madrid as he explained to legislators that local residents were spending hard earned cash in other counties because more plentiful purchasing opportunities were available. He said one business has offered to come into the county and act as an anchor for additional retail outlets to keep dollars circulating in local communities. 

Capital projects presented at the meeting included: E-911 relocation and equipment upgrades, water rights acquisition, a wastewater treatment center, a detention center addition, several community centers, public safety vehicle assistance, infrastructure, a post office, a REDI Net extension, a fleet compound, an archive center, a fire station, and a healing garden for drug and alcohol related victims.

Legislators said local entities could assure more ease in getting projects passed through to the Governor by following several steps. Senator Debbie Rodella stated that it was important to complete strategically prioritized ICIP reports in a timely matter, with precise dollar amounts at comparable rates of similar projects throughout the state. State officials also suggested that rounding up as much support as possible from several legislators for projects was important, as well as maintaining clean audits. Large projects were also suggested to be presented to legislators in phases.

Legislators will be allocating $186 million dollars to fund capital projects and $165 million dollars in general obligation bonds throughout the state for the upcoming fiscal year. County officials will be submitting ICIP reports by November 2 for a chance to intercept a portion of that funding into Rio Arriba County.   

-Erika L. Martinez, October 2013