Senator Roberto ‘Bobby’ Gonzales chats with Los Alamos Public Schools Acting Supt. Jennifer Guy following the recent bill preview at Fuller Lodge. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Senator Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales has served in the state legislature for 28 years; from 1995 to 2019 in the House of Representatives and since then in the Senate, where he also contributes his experience as a former headmaster and knowledgeable advocate for education.
During the recent Legislative Preview in Los Alamos, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women, Sen. Gonzales said he’s quite focused on the finance side of things and is on the Legislative Finance Committee and State Finance serves on the Investment & Pensions Committee, the Transportation Infrastructure Review Subcommittee and the Mortgage Finance Authority Act Oversight Committee.
“I could end up on the Senate side at Buildings & Capital Outlay. These are things that are part of my background. I have served in various capacities throughout my education career, but towards the end I served as Superintendent of the Taos Municipal Schools. So students are very important to me,” he said.
Senator Gonzales said New Mexico has never been in a better position than it is right now.
“We have 100-104 rigs drilling for oil producing about 1.7 million barrels per day. This is unheard of. A few months ago the top producers in the world were Texas, Alaska and New Mexico, and I think we’ve moved to the #2 position for largest production per day,” he said. “It brings in extra dollars for the state. The amount is market driven and changes daily. We have $3.6 billion in new dollars and what’s difficult for us is that the floodgates are open and everyone wants money for their needs or their projects and what they want to see funded.”
He said lawmakers need to see how much they can help and how much they can work with people looking for funding, but the hard part is when lawmakers have to say no.
“We’re at 49 percent of reserves, which is $3.6 billion. From Legislative Finance, we aim to keep it probably at 30 percent. Well, in my experience in the legislature, that got us to 33 percent of recurring cases, which means we’ve got to have 33 percent next just to stay balanced. And even higher, and we have to deal with that too, and I think that’s dangerous for our state, because the worst thing is to build up a lot and then have to come back and take something back. When that happens, it’s not a good environment at all. We have to be very cautious as we move this forward,” said Sen. Gonzales.
He said another thing lawmakers have seen this year is that every agency has to go through Senate finances and House appropriations and Legislative finances.
“Each agency pretty much gives us a report on where they are, how many openings they have, what their budget is and what their treasury is. Here we look at what is needed, if we need adjustments, if we need to work with it. All agencies have informed us that their high vacancy rate is due to our low salaries. And because they’re too low, people who have a lot of experience or who’ve worked with departments go into other areas where they make more money, and I don’t think you can blame them if we get into stagnant mode, in which they ‘ They don’t move on salaries very much. That’s a priority we need to focus really hard on,” Senator Gonzales said.