KUNM Local
3:19 pm
Wed February 17, 2010

State Lawmakers Approve Spending for Tribal Projects

Albuquerque, NM – The first was a bill to dedicate 5 percent of the state's capital outlay funds each year to tribal infrastructure projects.

Shiprock Democratic Senator Lynda Lovejoy said she was tired of begging the Senate Finance Committee for capital money for infrastructure in Indian Country.

LOVEJOY: "And I hope that down the road, the tribal leaders will say 'Okay my people, we've got to stop going to the state to beg for money.... we've got a casino, we generate revenues, and we need to start taking care of our own communities, our own infrastructure'."

Albuquerque Democratic Senator Tim Keller, who represents one of the city's most diverse areas, said his district contains the highest concentration of urban Native Americans in the state.

KELLER: "And you can talk to them, and many of them don't actually wanna be in my district. They wanna be back home on the reservation. And one of the big reasons why they're not out there is because of the lack of infrastructure."

The bill would allocate about $10 million in capital outlay funds each year to the Tribal Infrastructure Fund.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings noted that he's concerned that the state can't afford the measure.

He criticized opposition to a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation, which he said would bring income to the area.

The measure passed unamended though, 40 to 0.

The House will still need to address the bill in the session's final hours.

The other measure that passed the Senate will dedicate 5 percent of the state's capital outlay to projects for colonias, poverty-stricken areas along New Mexico's southern border.