Legislature passes bill requiring more transparency in budget process
As we near the end of the legislative session in Santa Fe, we’re also in the middle of Sunshine Week. That’s a national initiative by the News Leaders Association to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of hidden agendas. A bill that passed and is on it's way to the governor is trying to do just that.
Senate Bill 153 would require the Legislative Council Service to publish on the legislative website a searchable list of each appropriation along with the amount of funds allocated and the name of each legislator making the allocation. This list, including vetoes, would be published 30 days after the adjournment of the legislative session.
Last year and this year legislators voluntarily included a list of the lawmakers and the agencies they funded. SB 153 would require that by law.
Albuquerque Journal Capitol bureau chief, Dan Boyd says that transparency is something that reporters seek constantly.
"We're still struggling to try to get up to date information about the budget numbers, what it really means for New Mexicans, and then obviously, to try to present that information to readers and do that on a daily basis," he said.
This bill would mandate disclosure where all the funds are coming from in the junior bill – also known as the supplemental spending bill. It usually includes funding for initiatives in lawmakers’ districts as well as agencies.
Senator George Muñoz (D-Gallup), chair of the Senate Finance, committee disagrees with those who consider the junior bill an attempt at conducting deals out of public view.
"It's really not. I mean, the old days you used to go over to LFC, they'd sit you in a room, and you'd go through language, you'd go through money. And that's ended," he said. "Since I've been the chair of the Senate Finance, there's been more openness about the budget process than there ever was before."
Boyd agrees there have been recent efforts in the legislature to address transparency. But -
"It's hard to break that culture of a lot of this happening behind closed doors," he said. "So there's been tiny little steps, but I think there's still a lot of room for improvement."