Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

5-29 NM Has to Keep Introducing Itself

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- New Mexicans are always having to introduce themselves to the world. An astonishing number of people don't realize we exist.
Gov. Bill Richardson did a good job of introducing New Mexico to the political world two years ago but those memories are fading quickly.
On May 2, three cowboys from New Mexico introduced us to the horse racing world and were greeted with about as much enthusiasm as Gov. Richardson at the Iowa caucuses.
The owners, trainer and the undersized horse with an odd name, weird feet and peculiar gait, really weren't supposed to be there according to odds makers, tipsters and the elite of the horse racing world.
But Mine That Bird came out of nowhere to spoil the party at the Kentucky Derby. The victory was darned near impossible and couldn't happen again at the Preakness Stakes two weeks later, detractors said. But it almost did.
Mine That Bird closed within a head of the Preakness winner and might have won again if the short race had been a little longer. The third jewel in the triple crown is the Belmont Stakes on June 6.
That race is much longer and many owners of Derby and Preakness horses are debating whether to take on the challenge. Meanwhile the little New Mexico horse is ready to run.
The only problem now is that someone has to ride him. And typical of the respect the little guy has received so far, his handlers are having to look for their third new jockey in three races. The other two jockeys have previous commitments. That's probably some sort of world record.
But look for Mine That Bird to make New Mexicans proud. A victory would also do good things for the career of Bloomfield trainer Chip Woolley and for the Roswell Double Eagle Ranch, owned by Mark Allen and Leonard Blach.
So much for the political world and the world of horse racing, New Mexico state government recently has introduced itself to the movie industry through some generous subsidies to companies that agree to film here.
The most generous of those subsidies is a 25 percent rebate from the state for all qualified production expenditures. That rebate was passed by the 2002 Legislature and signed by Gov. Johnson during the last year of his administration.
In its first year of existence, the rebate cost state taxpayers $1.1 million. Last year it cost $47 million -- evidence that New Mexico has introduced itself in a big way.
Some lawmakers have asked whether in tough economic times, the state still can afford the expenditure when cuts are being made in so many areas of the budget.
A bill, introduced in the 2009 Legislature by Rep. Dennis Kintigh of Roswell, sought to repeal that rebate. It didn't go anywhere because of pressure generated by Gov. Richardson and the state Film Office.
But the matter does deserve further consideration. Two studies of the cost of film industry subsidies found that the state gets back either 15 cents or $1.50 for each taxpayer dollar invested.
Obviously some serious questions need to be asked of the people who conducted the studies. A vehicle for doing that before the next legislative session was passed by the House during the 2009 Legislature.
It recommends to the legislative leaders the creation of an interim Film, Art and Culture Committee to consider not only film subsidies but how the total range of art and cultural activities benefit the state and what the state can do to most effectively support them.
New Mexico is the third largest art market in the country. Significant tourism is generated by our many cultural attractions. We need to understand these industries in terms of what they contribute to our economy and what it is worth to the state to help them flourish.
The committee should be appointed and should be composed of lawmakers who are willing to ask some tough questions.
FRI, 5-29-09

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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