When Governments Lobby for More Government

The 2018 legislative session seems far, far away. But with the revenue picture looking a little brighter, rest assured, local governments across the Land of Enchantment are looking to Santa Fe for loot.

As the Eastern New Mexico News reported this week, Portales has drafted a new Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan. The “wishlist” is targeted at the legislature — as the city clerk put it, appropriators “will not consider giving funding for anything that’s not on an ICIP.” (Last year, Española’s mayor outlined the strategy: “The more we ask for, maybe the more we get?”)

No word yet on how Portales plans to secure its desired goodies, but employing a lobbyist is hardly out of the question. Several of the capitol’s high-powered hired guns, such as Michael Bowen and Scott Scanland, have local-government entities as clients.

Sadly, there have been no attempts to crack down on taxpayer-financed lobbying in New Mexico. Elsewhere, fiscally responsible elected officials have put the practice in their crosshairs. In Texas, Sen. Konni Burton refuses to meet “with lobbyists who are advocating on behalf of a taxing entity.” She’s pushing a bill to ban local governments from spending “public money to directly or indirectly influence or attempt to influence the outcome of any legislation pending before the legislature,” including membership “dues” for associations that attempt to “influence the outcome of any legislation pending before the legislature.” Earlier this year, Mississippi attempted to prohibit state bureaucracies from hiring lobbyists. In Arizona, last summer, the governor “fired all professional lobbyists being paid for by state agencies,” and the legislature codified his policy a few months ago.

New Mexico has a severe addiction to Big Government, and right-sizing the state’s “public” sector will be a long slog. One significant obstacle to progress is the use of taxpayer funds for anti-taxpayer policies. A gutsy gubernatorial candidate should make the issue a part of his or her campaign.

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