Inside the Capitol

Thursday, September 03, 2009

9-9 Gov. Richardson's September Song

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- "Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December. But the days grow short when you reach September."
Gov. Bill Richardson is in the September of his gubernatorial reign and time is running out on fulfilling the bold initiatives he promised almost seven years ago.
Richardson began with a state income tax cut for the top bracket of wage earners. The idea was to attract companies big enough to pay their top executives over $200,000 a year.
The cut had little trouble gaining acceptance. Republican lawmakers liked it. So did national conservative commentators. Rush Limbaugh loved it and gave Richardson extra credit for being a Democrat tax cutter.
In these budget-cutting times, some groups are calling for a repeal of those cuts. Richardson says we can't because the cuts have worked. I haven't seen any figures to back that up but for now, his word is being accepted.
The Rail Runner was an early Richardson project to provide train transportation from Belen to Santa Fe in order to decrease traffic congestion, improve the environment and aid spur economic development.
The project was completed at breakneck speed despite having to negotiate right-of-ways through sovereign nations and train stops with reluctant communities.
Ridership has been better than expected. But transportation projects will always be money losers and require government subsidies. The project may be helped by federal stimulus money for rapid rail systems.
The spaceport was another early Richardson initiative. The state made a huge commitment. Virgin Galactic signed on as the future anchor tenant. Other companies said if we built it, they would come. So far, UP Aerospace is about the only company to show up.
Dona Ana and Sierra counties chipped in on the financing. Otero County opted out. In comparison with the Rail Runner, it hasn't exactly blasted off. But it is a cutting-edge concept which at some point may bring big economic benefits to the surrounding counties.
Virgin Galactic has generated worldwide publicity with its $200,000 trips to the edge of space, which it planned to start in 2010. That date now appears to be overly optimistic.
Ground was broken in June, with international news coverage. Visits to the Spaceport America website during the groundbreaking week were close to 60,000, ninety percent of which were new visitors and many from foreign countries.
Virgin Galactic has attracted an Abu Dhabi investor to help finance the space it has leased at Spaceport America. In return, Virgin Galactic eventually will launch from the United Arab Emirates capital. The UAE originally had been seen as a competitor but this eases that worry.
Gov. Richardson went after the film industry in a big way and New Mexico now has several Academy Award winners to its credit. To a large extent the production companies have been well received despite complaints from neighbors in a few communities. Some lawmakers feel we are spending too much to attract the industry and have proposed eliminating the 25 percent rebates from state funds for money spent in New Mexico on production costs in New Mexico.
Eclipse Aviation has been a black spot on state economic development. The state invested $19 million plus incentives in the maker of small efficient corporate jets, which now is bankrupt to the tune of about a billion dollars.
A new owner, Eclipse Aerospace, is reopening the operation for maintenance purposes. Plans call for eventually going back into production but that appears to be years away and very uncertain.
"Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few. September, November."
If Gov. Richardson is offered a top position in President Barack Obama's administration, he may be in the November of his gubernatorial career. Santa Fe rumors say about five more weeks.
"And these few precious days I'll spend with you."
Don't count on it. Bill has New Mexico in his rear view mirror.
WED, 9-09-09

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



Post a Comment

<< Home