Cities meet for legislative update

Argen Duncan

City officials from four counties met for a legislative update Monday in Portales.

The New Mexico Municipal League held a district meeting at the Memorial Building. District 4 encompasses municipalities in Roosevelt, Curry, Quay and De Baca counties, and Portales City Manager Tom Howell estimated 50 people attended from all four counties.

Portales City Councilor Gary Watkins, alternate director for the district, said the meeting went well, and municipal league staff members discussed bills in the past legislative session — what passed, what failed and what’s waiting for action from the governor — and their effects on cities.

Hundreds of bills are still waiting the governor’s signature or veto, and the deadline is Friday.

“It’s all up in the air,” said Clovis City Commissioner Juan Garza.

He said officials are waiting to see what the governor will do.

However, the continuance of the “hold harmless” provision, in which the state makes up for gross receipts tax revenue municipalities lost when the food tax was repealed, is already decided, said Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield.

Watkins, Brumfield and Howell all agreed the hold harmless provision was their main concern for this year’s Legislature.

The Legislature passed a bill instituting an administrative fee municipalities must pay for the hold harmless provision, however.

“The governor hasn’t signed that bill yet, so we don’t really know if she will or she won’t,” Watkins said.

Even if Gov. Susana Martinez signs the bill, officials said, the administrative fee won’t be as bad as losing the hold harmless provision.

Watkins said the fee would be $25,000 for Portales, whereas the loss of the provision would have cost the city $500,000 to $600,000. Brumfield said if Martinez signs the bill, Clovis would pay a fee of $80,000 to $100,000, instead of losing almost $1.5 million if the hold harmless provision had been repealed.

Speakers also discussed municipal league insurance, and a representative from the state Finance Authority spoke.

Watkins said the communities weren’t getting capital outlay money for facilities and infrastructure, but that was expected.

Howell said the municipal league serves communities, and district and state meetings are significant.

“It’s pretty important to be able to sit together and discuss our problems because even though we’re different-sized communities, we have similar problems,” he said.

Brumfield said the purpose of the municipal league is to make cities aware of issues that impact them.