Sen. Roberto ‘Bobby’ Gonzales chats with Los Alamos Public Schools Acting Supt. Jennifer Guy following the recent Legislative Preview at Fuller Lodge. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Sen. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales has served in the state legislature for 28 years; in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2019 and since then in the Senate where he also puts his experience as a former superintendent of schools to good use and knowledgeable advocate for education.
During the recent Legislative Preview in Los Alamos sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women, Sen. Gonzales said he pretty much concentrates on the finance side of things, serving on the Legislative Finance Committee and State Finance as well the Investment & Pensions Committee, the Transportation Infrastructure Review Subcommittee and Mortgage Finance Authority Act Oversight Committee.
“I might end up on Buildings & Capital Outlay on the Senate side. Those are things that are part of my background. In my career in education, I served in various capacities but towards the end I was superintendent of Taos Municipal Schools. That’s why students are very much in my heart,” he said.
Sen. Gonzales said New Mexico has never been in such a good position as it is currently.
“We have 100-104 drilling rigs that are drilling for oil and they generate about 1.7 million barrels a day. This is unheard of. A few months back the leading producers in the world were Texas, Alaska and New Mexico and I think we have moved into the No. 2 position for the largest production per day,” he said. “This brings additional dollars to the state. The amount is market-driven and it changes daily. We’re at $3.6 billion new dollars and what’s hard with this for us is the floodgates are open and everyone wants money for their needs or their projects and what they’d like to see funded.”
He said legislators have to see how much they can help and how much they can work with people looking for funding but the hard part is when legislators have to say no.
“We’re at 49 percent of reserves which equates to $3.6 billion. From Legislative Finance we are looking at keeping it probably at 30 percent. Now with my experience of serving in the legislature, is this has put us into 33 percent of recurring, so that means that next we must have 33 percent just to stay even. And any higher and we will have to absorb that also and to me that is dangerous for our state because the worst thing is to build up a lot and then have to come back and take back some. When that happens, that’s not a good environment at all. We have to work very cautiously as we’re going along with this,” Sen. Gonzales said.
He said another thing legislators have experienced this year is that every agency has to go through Senate Finance and House Appropriations and Legislative Finance.
“Every agency gives us pretty much a report on where they’re at, how many vacancies they have, what their budget and their cash balance are. This is where we look at what’s needed, if we need adjustment, if we need to work with this. Every agency has indicated to us that their high vacancy rate is because our salaries are too low. And because they’re too low, individuals that have a lot of experience or have worked with departments, go to other areas where they make more money and I guess, you can’t blame them when we get into a stagnant mode where you’re not moving very much on salaries. That is one priority that we have to look at real strong,” Sen. Gonzales said.