Inside the Capitol

Friday, July 27, 2007

8-6 Lottery, Trinity and Billy


Syndicated Columnist

      SANTA FE -- New Mexico's college-bound students will get about a $5 million boost in scholarship funds from the state lottery.

      Considering we're talking about state government, the achievement came about quickly. Last fall a group of opinion leaders from throughout the state, called Think New Mexico, issued a stinging report detailing how the New Mexico lottery needed to cut its costs to provide more money for scholarships.

      Soon the money available from lottery proceeds would not be sufficient to cover a rising number of students eligible for the scholarships. Rising tuition rates also added to the problem.

      Think New Mexico's solution was to raise the amount of the lottery dollar going to scholarships from 24 cents to 30 cents. This would put New Mexico in line with most other states.

      To raise that money, Think New Mexico proposed rebidding the contract with the online vendor, which currently was receiving 8.52 cents of every lottery dollar, and seek a rate more like 2.5 percent.

   Some of the newer contracts being bid around the country were coming in that low because of improvements in the systems and increased competition.

   Shortly after Think New Mexico's report, the lottery's director said the contract would be rebid, but that the extra money would be used to hire more staff, increase already inflated salaries and do more promotion.

   That's when Gov. Bill Richardson got into the act with his plan, which looked much like Think New Mexico's proposal. Together they went to the Legislature in January

   The result was a law requiring lottery revenues for scholarships be increased immediately to 27 percent and on to 30 percent in 2009.

   At that point, the lottery administration and board finally distinguished themselves. They negotiated a rate of 1.5 percent with a Greek company called INTRALOT. The former vendor, GTECH bid 1.78 percent, which wasn't too shabby either.

   More than 43,000 students have received lottery scholarships since the lottery's inception in 1996.

   "This is wonderful news for New Mexico's high school students who are working hard, staying in school and earning good grades in the hope of one day qualifying for full-tuition college scholarships," said Fred Nathan, executive director of Think New Mexico.

   *  *     *

   Initial response has been heavy to a recent column about newly-released studies revealing that many New Mexicans were exposed to significant amounts of radiation from the Trinity atomic test.

   Respondents are telling me about cancer running throughout their families, especially thyroid cancer. I'm also learning of studies done decades ago that were not released because the government did not want to assume any liability for resulting health problems.

   We are going to stay on this story and keep you informed about what we learn and what you may be able to do if you think you might have been harmed.

   *  *     *

   A respondent to a recent column on the Billy the Kid exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum said that he and his family  have been looking many years for gold that Billy buried north of Espanola.

   I had to tell him not to waste any more time. The only things Billy ever robbed were cattle and horses and probably people to whom he dealt cards.

   Billy wasn't in the outlaw business to get rich. He had scores to settle. In the process, he killed six or seven men, not 21. He was deputized during most of his killings. But then, both sides in the Lincoln County War controlled officials with the authority to deputize.

   The Kid didn't rob banks, trains or stagecoaches. He wasn't a "highwayman" as many pulp novel writers fantasized. He seldom ever had a dime to his name.

   There are reports of Billy having a descendant in the Espanola area, however. But the great, great grandson, or whatever he'd be, is reputed to be just as tough as Billy and quite a bit meaner.

MON, 8-06-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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