By David Collins -- The Santa Fe New Mexican
SANTA FE, N.M. (MCT) - Pueblo communities in northern Santa Fe County soon could be working on more than $1.4 million in projects funded by this year's legislature. Gov. Bill Richardson has yet to approve the Legislature's capital spending bills, but a state agency is ready to make sure whatever is finally appropriated gets spent.
Construction projects legislators authorized to use revenues from a state oil-and-gas severance tax include work at the Pueblo of Pojoaque Wellness Center and a traditional ceremonial facility in Pojoaque. Those two projects are in line for $250,000 and $200,000, respectively.
Other area funding in the Legislature's capital outlay bill includes $250,000 for a law enforcement training center in Tesuque; $200,000 for affordable housing in San Ildefonso; and $150,000 for a multipurpose building in Nambe.
The state Department of Indian Affairs in 2004 established a capital outlay unit intended to help tribes and pueblos navigate the paperwork required to take advantage of legislative grants. At the time, the legislative finance committee reported that the Legislature had authorized $21 million in capital outlay spending by tribes from 1996 - 2003, but $17 million of that had been repeatedly reauthorized because it was not spent in time.
Legislators often reauthorize prior spending plans, but capital outlay money not spent can also go back to the state treasury. In 2006, no funds designated for their projects reverted to state coffers, said Department of Indian Affairs Spokesman Ed Calabaza.
Last year, of about $30 million in capital outlays managed through the state Indian-affairs office, only $112,000 reverted to state coffers, Calabaza said. ''You can see what an impact the department has had on making sure that money is getting spent,'' he said.
Growth in legislative appropriations to tribes followed Attorney General Patricia Madrid's release of a 1999 opinion that concluded such spending does not violate the state's anti-donation clause.
Then-Attorney General Paul Bardacke issued an opinion in 1983 that said the only state grants that would not violate a state constitutional provision banning donations of state money would be donations to subordinate units of government. Madrid in 1999 concluded otherwise, saying the constitution only bans grants to persons, associations and corporations, but not to the federal government or tribes.
According to state Gaming Control Board documents, tribal revenue-sharing payments to the state, based on gambling revenue, have grown an average of 15 percent annually since 2002. A record $16.5 million was reported in the third quarter of 2007, when the most recent payments were logged.
Pojoaque Governor George Rivera said state grants only pay for part of the projects they fund and the tribe finds other funds to pay for the rest of those projects. He said state-funded projects tend to benefit the surrounding community as well as the pueblo.
''It will help to move the projects along, but it's definitely not enough to complete anything,'' Rivera said.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Santa Fe New Mexican. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.