2016 NM Legislative Session: Budget shortfall serves as a double-edged sword

We New Mexicans know that our economy and environment are inextricably linked.

Nothing can happen to one without impacting the other. That’s why even during the 2016 30-day budget-focused session, CVNM’s legislative team was in the Capitol full time, ensuring that your conservation values were represented in critical policy and budget debates.

Due to the budget’s overdependence on oil and gas revenues, plunging oil and gas prices created a severe budget deficit. This served as a

double-edged sword, eradicating existing tax credits that make rooftop solar affordable for more New Mexican families and stopping further tax breaks for oil and gas producers.

This session has again shown how our leaders have allowed New Mexico’s budget to remain critically dependent on revenues and economic development of extractive industries – even going so far as to tie uranium legacy waste cleanup funding to new uranium mining and storage of radioactive waste in House Bill 293. Though the issue didn’t receive a message from the Governor and couldn’t be

considered, just the shadow of this funding strategy brought citizens from communities impacted by uranium legacy waste in western New Mexico – from Navajo, Acoma, Laguna and places in between – to the Capitol to make sure their voices in opposition were heard by the bill sponsors.

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In Navajo, Molly Hogue proclaimed her opposition to HB 293 in the Rotunda of the State Capitol. This bill proposed to tie uranium legacy waste cleanup funding to new uranium mining or radioactive waste storage. Photo by Liliana Castillo/CVNM

After their powerful words, the co-sponsors of the bill committed not to push the bill forward this session. CVNM stands in solidarity with the communities impacted by uranium legacy waste and thanks those who came for making the 12-hour round trip and sharing their stories with us.Bills like HB 293 remind us that when it comes to our air, land, water and the health of our communities, accountability is key and that who we elect matters. Soon, we’ll be working on our Conservation Scorecard so you know how your legislators vote on critical conservation issues.

Read about all the bills CVNM advocated for or against this session on our website at CVNM.org.

Again, thank you so much for your civic engagement and support throughout the session. We couldn’t have done it without members like you!

Here are some highlights and lowlights:

  • The Rooftop Solar Tax Credit (SB 13/HB 26, Stewart /Maestas Barnes) didn’t make it into the These bills would have provided an eight-year extension of an existing tax credit that helps make solar affordable for more New Mexicans. Residential solar tax credits like New Mexico’s, which is set to expire at the end of 2016, have helped middle class families the most – those with median incomes of $40-90K who are installing the most solar systems. This tax credit contributed to one of the bright spots in New Mexico’s economy, with the solar industry growing 45 percent from 2012 to 2014, and continuing to add hundreds of jobs each year.
  • The conservation community stopped the Solar Red Tape Bill (HB 256, Nuñez) before it could even pass its first This bill would have required extensive disclosures in any agreement for the financing, sale or lease of a distributed (solar) energy generation system. HB 256 would have created an additional, unnecessary burden on firms marketing and installing solar and other alternative energy systems.
  • CVNM advocated against the PRC Appointment Measure (HJR 8, Bandy) that would have replaced the five-member elected Public Regulation Commission (PRC) with a five-member commission appointed by the It was combined with a portion of HJR 18, which would have applicants to the PRC be chosen first by the Legislative Council, forming a pool of 15, which the governor would then select from. This could have had the effect of making the PRC overly subject to political manipulation. CVNM was joined by current Commissioners Montoya, Jones and Espinoza in opposition to the bill and it was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-3 vote.

Read about the legislative efforts of the Environmental Alliance of New Mexico, convened by our sister organization CVNM Education Fund, on page 16 of this newsletter.

CVNM was granted permission to capture and share these stories and photos.

By Liliana Castillo, Communications Director