Byline: KATE FERLIC
State representative sees education, water rights as area's most important concerns
State Rep. Max Coll, D-Santa Fe, has been representing the interests of Eldorado residents for almost 30 years.
For Eldorado, Coll said that legislation on education and water rights will be particularly important to the community.
``The long-range good stewardship of water has long been one of my fights,'' Coll said. He pledged he would look favorably on those bills that favor long-range planning of water.
While Coll will propose a number of Capitol Outlay projects relating to recreation and housing improvements in Eldorado, none of them will be considered until the Legislature allocates Capitol Outlay money. When the money is allocated, Coll will be forced to prioritize the expenditures.
``Appropriating money to build a walkway at the library is a high priority for me,'' Coll said.
Through three bills that Coll sponsors (HB60, HB61, HB519) and his pledge of support for other measures relating to health care, Coll has shown his support for insuring New Mexican's don't slip through the cracks when it comes to health-care coverage.
Coll has pledged his support for the New Mexico Health Care Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Manny Aragon, D-Albuquerque, calling for universal health care for New Mexicans.
Coll also introduced HB62, an act to protect employees from retaliation for reporting an illegal act by their boss. Republicans criticized the bill as anti-business. The measure was rejected last week on a 28-41 vote.
As chairman of the Appropriations and Finance Committee that crafts the budget, Coll sponsors less than 10 house bills. Coll's lack of sponsorship, however, is politically savvy rather than apathetic. Holding the helm of the crucial and highly controversial budget bill, Coll sits in a high-handed, yet vulnerable position.
If Coll sponsored many separate bills, other representatives could assume the position of beleaguering Coll into allocating their projects money in return for votes supporting key bills.
Coll sponsors HB2 or the General Appropriation Act of 2001, which translates into setting the budget for the 2001 fiscal year beginning July 1.
This year's budget package provides for spending about $3.8 billion next year, ranging from education reforms and repairs to health care. The $3.8 billion includes a $347 million increase and in total, is almost 10 percent higher than the existing budget.
The two most contentious issues incorporated into the measure are education spending and tax-cuts.
In terms of education, HB2 calls for a 9.6 increase in spending for public schools, an 8 percent average pay raise for public school teachers and a seven percent increase for higher-education faculty. The bill also contains a few one time allocations for public school repairs and new facilities, like the allocation of $9.5 million for development of a new student-testing program.
Even with these fairly liberal spending proposals, the bill allocates $8 million less than the House Education Commission has recommended.
While tax-cuts are handled by other legislation, they are paid for by unspent money in the budget. This year, Gov. Gary Johnson proposed an across the board $75 million income tax reduction. The House version of budget bill leaves $166 million unspent, which could be used for a decrease in income tax, but may also be used to bulk the state's cash reserve as protection against the possibility that oil and gas prices may plummet.
Despite Johnson's warning that he may veto the bill if not inclusive of tax-cuts, the House, in a 42-25 vote, approved the budget package on Feb. 20.
Coll, is a 15-term representative. He is the Chairman of the Appropriations and Finance Committee and a member of the Voters and Elections Committee.