Home Local News Voters to decide 6 ballot issues

Voters to decide 6 ballot issues

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Getting past the political races on next month’s General Election ballot, voters find six important questions to answer.

Ballots include three proposed amendments to the New Mexico Constitution and three general obligation bond issues, regardless of the voter’s Lea County address because they are issues for the whole state.

Contacted for comment by the News-Sun, State Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, and state Rep. Randall Pettigrew, R-Lovington, generally support the bond issues that continue funding for senior centers, libraries and higher education.

The bonds could benefit the Hobbs Senior Center and public library as well as the New Mexico Junior College.

But, the legislators said the constitutional amendments are not good for the state.

In an editorial position, the News-Sun agrees with that sentiment. On the Viewpoints page, page six, of Sunday’s News-Sun, the issue of the three constitutional amendments was also addressed — with the News-Sun urging a vote of “no” on all three amendments.

Constitutional Amendment 1 would allow additional dipping into the land grant permanent funds for early childhood education and certain other educational purposes.

Constitutional Amendment 2 would allow the use of state funds for services such as broadband internet, energy, water and wastewater “and other similar services as provided by law,” softening the restrictions in the so-called “anti-donation clause” of the constitution, effectively allowing the state to pick “winners and losers” among companies in those industries.

Constitutional Amendment 3 would delay the general election for a judge appointed by the governor allowing them to sit on the bench longer before having to face constituents in an election.

Both legislators expressed strong opposition to Amendment 1.

“I am a great supporter of early childhood education, but we have absolutely no need to go into the permanent fund at a higher percent,” said Kernan, a retired educator. “We have substantial amounts of money to support early childhood education in the early childhood trust fund which they anticipate will reach $4 billion in the next year and even higher over the next couple of years.”

Pettigrew pointed out the state’s program of early childhood development started in 2012, became its own department in 2016 and has gone nowhere to improving the state’s status as 51st in the nation for education.

“Since 2012 and the efforts that have been in through the (Gov. Susanna) Martinez and the (Gov. Michelle) Lujan Grisham leadership, we haven’t moved the needle of third grade reading level a single bit,” Pettigrew said. “It’s now one of the highest funded departments we have. Early childhood is not working.

“We don’t need to raid our permanent fund account to accomplish what we need to do. We need to spend wiser. We need to fix the education system that we have.”

Kernan, concerned about reducing the positive effect of the permanent land grant fund, agreed with Pettigrew’s conclusion.

“To impact the corpus of the land grant permanent fund for the purpose of early childhood is simply not needed. Money is available in other pockets and we don’t need to destroy the corpus of that fund,” Kernan said. “We have increased funding for both K-12 and childhood education over the last five years and we don’t need to raid that fund. It’s not about needing more money. It’s about needing a change in policy.”

The second proposed amendment, adding exceptions to the anti-donation clause of the constitution, concerned Pettigrew because of effort he said he’s seen at the state level to acquire control of local cooperatives like Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative.

“It wasn’t just for broadband. They sell this as getting internet to everybody,” Pettigrew said. “The state wants to take control of that. Hell, no!”

Pettigrew acknowledged he cast a “bad vote” when the third amendment came on the floor in the Legislature, voting yes to to protect the judges.

Now, he’s urging a no vote. “Basically, that gives an appointed judge a bye,” Pettigrew concluded, preferring the current process of putting an appointed judge before the voters at the next general election.

On the bonds, Kernan said, “I support bonds. I’ve never voted against bonds.”

Encouraging local benefits, Pettigrew paused, “If it doesn’t help us from Crossroads to Jal, the answer’s hell no.”

Bond question 1 would provide a total of $24,470,000 to senior centers around the state, including $60,500 to the Hobbs Senior Center to purchase and equip vehicles.

Bond question 2 would provide a total of $19,266,000 to make capital expenditures for public libraries, with no specific amount earmarked to Lea County.

Bond question 3 would provide a total of $215,986,000 to make capital expenditures for higher education around the state, including $2.1 million for New Mexico Junior College to plan, design, construct, furnish and equip a vocational trades building.

Former NMJC president Steve McCleery, encouraging support for bond question 3 and accompanied by current President Derek Moore at a recent Lea County Commission meeting, told the commissioners, “These are projects that are shovel ready. There is no tax increase.

“$2.1 million is all we asked for.”

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