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Get Our Deposit Back

On October 17, the legislature will go into Special Session to deal with the escalating budget crisis that will likely get worse before it gets better. There are legislators that would like to cut expenses. There are legislators that would like to increase taxes. And, there is an executive who is offended that some legislators refuse to live in a fantasy world:

Gov. Bill Richardson might have a new nickname for two of his frequent adversaries in the New Mexico Legislature.

Speaking to reporters Monday after a news conference in Santa Fe, Richardson voiced frustration with Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming.

“I don’t want this gloom and doom that is coming from certain quarters,” Richardson said.

New Mexicans would be wise to listen to the prognostications of these two gentleman. They know of what they speak. One idea that might be worth exploring during this session comes from a 73 year old who bought into the space dream:

When a private spaceship soared over California to claim a $10 million prize, daredevil venture capitalist Alan Walton was 68 and thought he’d soon be on a rocket ride of his own.

Walton plunked down $200,000 to be among the first space tourists to make a suborbital thrill-ride high above the Earth aboard a Virgin Galactic spaceship.

Now he intends to ask for his deposit back if there’s no fixed launch date by his 74th birthday next April.

New Mexicans have put more than a $100 million into Governor Richardson’s space odyssey, and now that its time to pay our other bills. Maybe it’s about time to ask for our deposit back. After all, it’s not like this has come even close to delivering what was promised.

When Virgin officials and the state of New Mexico came together to announce a partnership to turn the commercial space industry into a reality, they estimated commercial flights beginning in 2007 in California and moving to Spaceport America as soon as the New Mexico facility was ready in 2008.

Reminder folks: we’re two months away from 2010! Unlike federally backed NASA, the state of New Mexico can’t actually print its own money to explore the final frontier. We have to live in reality.

Besides, think about it. Do you really want the state government of New Mexico to be directly involved in something as complicated as space launches. Remember, this is the entity that can’t figure out how to do something as simple as answering the phone:

New Mexico has extended call-center hours, upgraded the phone system and added 15 workers. Even so, “We still are receiving reports of people’s inability to get through,” said Carrie Moritomo, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Workforce Solutions.

Of course, they could hire more people, but part of that budget is probably tied up in supporting the Space Authority. So before we start raising taxes, how about we revisit every last one of Governor Richardson’s “great” initiatives of the last seven years, and start asking for our deposits back. And, while we’re at it. Maybe we can eliminate some of those high-paying, low-performing jobs the Governor was so fond of creating:

Five years ago, just eight of Gov. Bill Richardson’s political appointees made more than $100,000 a year. Today, more than 100 earn at least that much.

Hey, it’s just a thought.