Regional Coalition of LANL Communities treasurer, Santa Fe City Councilor Peter Ives, far left, vice chair Taos City Councilor Darien Fernandez, center, and secretary Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelevitz at Friday’s RCLC meeting in Espanola. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
City of Espanola Mayor Javier Sanchez, left, and Rio Arriba County Commissioner Leo Jaramillo listen during Friday’s meeting of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities in Espanola. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Although House Memorial 63 was on the agenda for Friday’s meeting of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities in Espanola, it never came to a vote to decide whether or not the RCLC board would support it. HM 63 is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday before the House Local Government, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs Committee.
A memorial is defined by the New Mexico State Legislature as an “expression of legislative desire, usually addressed to another governmental body, in the form of a petition or declaration of intent. A memorial does not have the force of law. Memorials can be either joint or simple and require no action on the part of the governor. Joint memorials are acted on by both houses. Simple memorials are those of only one house and do not require the approval or acquiescence of the other house.”
Executive director Eric Vasquez said the memorial, introduced by District 40 Rep. Joseph Sanchez, calls for a task force to review the distribution of the gross receipts tax generated by the prime contractor at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He said board Chair Henry Roybal had asked that the item be placed on the agenda. Roybal was unable to attend the meeting due to a family emergency. The meeting was chaired by vice chair Darien Fernandez of Taos City Council.
Santa Fe City Council member and board treasurer Peter Ives said he would simply note that his Council has not yet taken action and because it had not become before them, he would not discuss it. Fernandez also said that in Taos they had not discussed it in Council so they could not take a position. Los Alamos County Councilor and board secretary David Izraelevitz said individual members of his Council had discussed the memorial and the Council had not taken formal action. He said he suspected the Council would have some issues with it.
Fernandez said in plain language for members of the audience, the memorial would set up a study to determine how much of the GRT from LANL would possibly be distributed to other counties, not just Los Alamos. He said it would “just be a study at this point”. Fernandez said Roybal had asked him to read a statement into the record.
Roybal’s statement said HM 63 asks for nothing more than a study of how distribute the local tax and the fiscal impacts of the national laboratories and other national or federal facilities on surrounding areas and “equitable distribution of tax revenues”.
“That could even mean that the state share could be spread around more equitably. It doesn’t necessarily imply that just the local option should be taken from Los Alamos. Additionally, any study or task force should include Los Alamos County officials to discuss their perspective as well as constitutional issues of taxes. Getting the state to study something is not a bad thing. The memorial says nothing about taking revenue from Los Alamos County and giving it to someone else. It Just says put a task force together and study it and make some recommendations. This is not a bad thing,” the statement said.
“In addition, I represent the northern and rural communities that directly enjoin Los Alamos County where there are many services that are needed. I am representing my community in their concerns as their elected official. I am also the representative for the Santa Fe County Commission on this board. The County Commission unanimously voted Feb. 26 and gave direction to support House Memorial 63,” Roybal said.
After reading the statement, Fernandez said it looks like Santa Fe County had taken action. He said Taos City Council and Santa Fe City Council have not taken any action.
“So I feel as a board we can’t decide on something when we don’t know how our respective communities stand on it,” he said.
Espanola Mayor Javier said he felt quite conversely that the members of the board are elected to be the voices of the people they are representing.
“We don’t go back to our councils to ask how we vote on something as simple as the joint powers agreement. So I think conversely not only we do have the right, but the responsibility and obligation to speak for our communities,” Sanchez said. “That having been said, I am in favor of the study. Just read a couple of quotes from the (news release on)SB 11 that passed. First from the Governor – ‘ensuring that adjacent communities will be able to depend on a steady stream of important revenue’. We also have Senator (Richard) Martinez who says this is about bring better economic security to Northern New Mexico and our entire state. We also have Christine Chandler who said that this revenue stream is to help provide essential services and programs for New Mexicans in her community and district which includes everything from Rio Arriba, Espanola to Taos.”
Sanchez said it would he thinks “it would only be a no-brainer to delve into that a little bit further.
“We spoke earlier about the Lab’s effect on the water downstream. That’s another study. That’s within our purview in the same context. We also think about members of this very board who have gone to Washington to help increase the budget from $175 to $225 million. So as a group we can work together for those types of things. So as a group I think we can also work to at least understand what possibilities there are to make this community as strong as possible, to be able to in fact attract the best human resource group of people around the world so that we have and continue to have a word class facility in this community. I think it behooves us all to ensure that our entire community works well together, gets stronger together, economically developing together,” Sanchez said.
He said that with every dollar that goes into LANL, sometimes we see that poverty remains, or in fact grows so maybe this study would help us to understand how we can truly develop economically all of Northern New Mexico. All of the representatives who put forward this bill.
Board member and Rio Arriba County Commissioner Leo Jaramillo said his commission has not formally voted on HB 63 but has sent people from Rio Arriba County to lobby on the GRT tax in Washington, DC.
“The reason I would like to see a study as well, just to see the study and the recommendations is I agree with what Mayor Javier Sanchez said with regard to being the neighboring community and the community that has the larger Los Alamos National Laboratory workforce and how it can definitely be developed economically,” Jaramillo said.
Ives noted that annually in late fall, the Santa Fe City Council adopts a resolution that sets forth the City’s legislative priorities.
“That’s part of the reason I hesitate to act because we did that in a very formal process and there was a great deal of discussion over probably three months. I would not want to act on behalf of the entire council given those efforts we went through coming to consensus on what those legislative priorities would be,” he said. “I would certainly note that each one of our communities is more than free to to advocate for this as an independent entity and would encourage certainly those that have acted on this or feel strongly to do so and that certainly is the message I will take back to the Santa Fe City Council as well.”
Vasquez said that per a discussion he had with Roybal before he became unavailable to attend the meeting, Roybal asked him to prepare a few notes, “some information on the background, the history of this”.
“When the University of California lost the prime contract for the Lab and when LANS came in as the prime contractor, that was the first time GRT was on the table… Through my research I have been able to find at that point in time there was some discussion similar to this. It was when a county councilor from Los Alamos visited several of the other communities and they signed an (memorandum of understanding) between Los Alamos County and six other communities in Northern New Mexico with a five-year sunset on that in which Los Alamos pledged to basically invest in the community activities outside Los Alamos to work for the benefit of all,” Vasquez said. “That’s where the primary funding for the ‘blue buses’ originally came from. That’s where the economic development investment which was called the REDI initiative which is where the REDI nets come from. And a variety of other things. After the five year sunset it was rolled back as new councilors were elected in Los Alamos.”
At that point, Fernandez noted that the board had lost a quorum due to the departure of Mayor Sanchez.