SANTA FE (KRQE) – Right now, in order to manage an entire county’s finances, there are two simple requirements.
Number one: be 18 years old. Number two: Live in the county you want to work in.
For Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, that bar simply isn’t high enough for what’s becoming an increasingly complicated job.
“We’ve seen that investments at the county level are becoming more and more complex,” Candelaria said. “There’s hundreds of millions of dollars of public money being invested by county treasurers.”
Candelaria’s introduced SJR 19, a proposed constitutional amendment that would require the legislature to set basic requirements to be a county treasurer, including finance and investment experience or education and ongoing training. The specifics would have to be hammered out by lawmakers.
The proposal comes while Bernalillo County is cutting millions from its budget because of bad investments made by current treasurer Manny Ortiz. Last week, a judge allowed a recall petition against Ortiz to go forward.
Candelaria’s amendment is similar to one voters approved for the public regulation commission in 2012. That bill was inspired by former PRC commissioner Jerome Block Jr., who was caught using a state gas card to fill up personal vehicles and pocketing campaign cash.
Candelaria anticipates New Mexico’s smaller, rural counties would oppose the bill on the grounds that increased qualifications might make it harder to find someone capable and willing to do a tough job.
In November, Ortiz told KRQE News 13 low pay for county treasurers drives the most qualified candidates away.
“To get a [high] caliber person, they’re going to have to pay more,” Ortiz said. “There are just a lot of people who don’t want to run.”
Last year, lawmakers approved a 15 percent increase for treasurers. That increase went into effect at the beginning of this year.