Back of the Ballot

A primer on constitutional amendment proposals and bond issues

QUESTION 1: Land Grant Permanent Fund

Should New Mexico send more money from public lands into early-childhood education, public schools and other programs?

The proposal would increase disbursement cash from the investment of the fund from 5% to 6.25%, with 40% of the new distribution going to pay for education needs of at-risk students and 60% toward early-childhood education. If the fund drops below $17 billion, this provision would pause. The fund currently contains more than $21.6 billion; distributions go to 21 beneficiaries, including public schools and higher education institutions, along with prisons and the state hospital. At present rates, the new distribution would amount to an estimated $211 million per year.


Education inequality in New Mexico is a real problem that this proposal stands to address. A major court ruling determined the state has failed to properly allocate funding for its entire school system and in particular for at-risk students, English language learners, Native American students and special education students. When it comes to early-childhood education, there’s a demonstrated positive benefit later in life for students and the whole community when children enter school sooner.


There’s no guarantee adoption would have a lasting effect on money available for education, as a future Legislature could easily vote to remove other sources of funding. Additionally, even if voters approve the amendment, the US Congress must also adopt the change in order for it to take effect. Mathematical analysis indicates the fund would hit a tipping point around 2040, after which the corpus would diminish and the amount of disbursements to all beneficiaries would begin to drop for the life of the fund.

SFR’s take:

Keeping billions of dollars in the bank when our state is at the bottom of the nation’s education rankings today seems like a formula for failing the future. We recommend a yes vote.

QUESTION 2: Anti-donation Clause

Should the anti-donation clause be amended to allow public spending on infrastructure for essential services such as internet, energy, water or wastewater?

The existing law aims to prevent the use of state, city, county or school resources to aid private entities through loans or direct spending. New Mexico already has added a number of exceptions to this clause that outline acceptable ways subsidies to the private sector may occur, including for construction of affordable housing and care of sick people who are indigent. The amendment would specify contemporary services for digital connectivity and residential utilities also qualify.


Application of public funding for these services would increase their availability, particularly for rural areas, including what the Department of Internet Technology estimates are at least 20% of New Mexico homes without internet. Water and wastewater will only gain critical importance in the future and this law change could make federal funding and public-private partnerships more viable.


Future legislation would be required for specific projects and leave the details of determining fair distribution across the state subject to the political mood and power structure. With six amendments to this rule since 1971, the value of the clause has been diminished and it has become difficult to parse out what’s allowed or prohibited. That also leaves interpretation in the hands of appropriators who might have undisclosed agendas.

SFR’s take:

Relying on the private sector alone to build infrastructure that reaches all New Mexicans has proven an ineffective strategy. We recommend voting yes to make it clear that these services are a public benefit.

QUESTION 3: Appointed Judges Re-election

Should a judge appointed to fill a vacancy be up for election at the first general election one year after the appointment?

The state constitution requires appointed judges be on the ballot at the next general election after appointment. This proposal would give those people longer to establish their work histories on the bench before challengers can take aim. The amendment also makes the language of the law gender-neutral rather than calling all judges “him.” (Read more about the retention and appointment process in a story on page 14.)


Some judges are appointed with just a few months remaining in a term before the next election. That uncertainty keeps accomplished independent attorneys from applying for and accepting these jobs. Plus, sometimes appointments are made with too little time for a judge to qualify for public campaign financing.


Appointed judges are vetted by a nonpartisan committee that gives the governor a short list to choose from, while people who run for election don’t have to have relevant qualifications except that they be licensed attorneys. At the same time, allowing an appointee to keep an office without affirmative action by voters could also fuel political divides.

SFR’s take:

Voter participation rates are abysmally low, and with so much noise on top-of-the-ticket races, there’s little education about the judiciary as it stands. The potential to attract qualified and committed candidates is promising. We recommend a yes vote.


Should the state issue bonds for various projects, then repay them through property tax revenue?

1) $24.47 million for senior centers, including:

  • $500,000 for renovations in Chimayó
  • $235,630 and $65,805 for meals equipment at Mary Esther Gonzales and Pasatiempo in Santa Fe
  • $100,000 to design the Santa Cruz center
  • $100,000 to design the Pojoaque Pueblo center

2) $19.3 million for public libraries, including:

  • $7 million to the state Department of Cultural Affairs
  • $6 million to the Department of Higher Education
  • $6 million to the Public Education Department

3) $215 million for public higher education, special public schools and tribal schools, including:

  • $2.3 million for Santa Fe Community College
  • $1.4 million for the New Mexico School for the Deaf

Should Santa Fe County issue bonds?

  • $13 million to acquire, construct, design, equip, and improve roads
  • $7 million to acquire real property and necessary water rights for, and to construct, design, equip, rehabilitate, and improve, water and wastewater projects
  • $5 million for open space, trails and parks

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Letters to the Editor

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