Sen. Carlos Cisneros addresses the audience at the 2019 Legislative Preview Wednesday at Fuller Lodge as Rep.-Elect Chris Chandler looks on. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Sen. Carlos Cisneros, who has been serving the 6th District since 1985, participated in the 2019 Legislative Preview Jan. 9 at Fuller Lodge which was sponsored by the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters.
Cisneros, whose district includes parts of Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos Counties, said he has been privileged to serve on the Senate Finance Committee as chair and I also serve and as a member of the Legislative Finance Committee. He is already listed as a co-sponsor on multiple bills for this year’s legislative session which opens Tuesday including SB-11 on gross receipts for non-profits such as the National Laboratories and SB-240 on mobile rural health service for substance abuse.
Cisneros said he expects some “backfilling” or giving funding to some of the agencies money was taken from over the course of the last 10 years or so.
“Along with that we are also looking at about a $600 million non-recurring revenue for tackle projects across the state – essentially $300 million for agencies, universities, departments of corrections, all of the department needs across the state. We’re also looking at allocating $300 million for individual legislative member projects for local communities,” he said. “Along with that, you’re also going to see in HB-2 about $400 million in additional money for roads and road improvements both for state roads and local roads. So we’ll have the opportunity to beat the challenge we’ve had over the course of the last many years.”
Cisneros said the economic outlook looks good.
“I’ll tell you that quite honestly 40 percent of that comes from oil and in spite of the fact that it seems to be dropping in price and we recognize that at the pump, which is good. But unfortunately has an impact in terms of revenue to the state. We’re projecting that while the price is low the volume of production is maintained and at that funding level throughout 2019 unless something extraordinary occurs and the possibility is always there,” he said. “It’s a very volatile industry and our economy is still soft on a national scale.”
Cisneros said the legislators recognize the potential for early signs of recession so they are preparing for that and allocating 20 percent of their new money to the reserve.
“Ordinarily we only do about five percent. This will be the first time in history that we’re going to make sure that we’re prepared for the downfall in our economy should that occur. If it doesn’t we’ll have at least surplus money into the future,” he said.
Cisneros said legislators are looking forward to a very productive legislative session with more than 400 bills already pre-filed. He said a better year is anticipated in terms of the introduction of legislation and that in the first week people can expect to see a lot of the newer members come up with some interesting bills, some of which are already in progress.
“Obviously we will be supportive of the initiative to be sure that we don’t lose the GRT option as result of the Triad management at Los Alamos National Laboratory. We’ve talked with Dr. Thom Mason on several occasions and he seems very in tune to the fact that the state needs that money and will be needing it into the future. He’s supportive of the idea so we’re going to initiate the identical bill that we introduced last year that was vetoed by the governor,” Cisneros said.
He mentioned what’s being referred to the “Rocket Docket” – bills in the 2018 legislative session that were vetoed by the governor that had bi-partisan support and unanimous votes in both the House and the Senate but were vetoed nonetheless. He said those bills will only have one committee hearing and then will pass very quickly – ordinarily legislation will have two or three committee referrals.
Cisneros said he looks forward to working with newly appointed agency secretaries some of whom have already been appointed saying that a lot of them are “close to our hearts”. He said he looking forward to working with Dr. Kate O’Neill, Secretary of Higher Education, saying she was tremendous when working at UNM-Taos.
“She was tremendous when working at UNM-Taos. We anticipate she will be very receptive to continuing her type of leadership going into the future,” he said.
Cisneros said education is clearly going to be an important endeavor particularly with the recent outcome of the Yazzie vs Martinez litigation regarding public education and funding in which essentially the judge agreed with the plaintiffs that the state has violated the Constitution in terms of adequate funding for education.
“We all know that’s the case. Unfortunately we haven’t had the money to do much of anything. That gives us the impetus to do a lot of improvements, so initially you’ll see that big chunk of money going into education and then you’re going to see a slew of independent pieces of legislation coming forth regarding the improvement of education, particularly early childhood education,” he said.