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Town Hall on Governor Created Problems

It looks like New Mexico First will be holding a “town hall meeting” to discuss the shortfalls in addressing the state’s transportation infrastructure needs:

New Mexico’s transportation infrastructure is vital to the state’s economic prosperity and integral to the quality of life, health, and welfare of our citizens. Traditional funding has been well below the actual needs of maintaining a modern transportation system. Federal, state, and local investment in transportation represents less than 40% of the actual needs of the system creating a sense of urgency for states to seek alternative funding options. Both federal and state transportation revenue has not been sufficient to keep up with inflation, the rising cost of construction, and the demands for transportation services of a growing population. Without an increase in investment, our transportation system will become more congested and the condition of our transportation infrastructure will become less safe.

The state’s annual spending has grown by BILLIONS under Governor Richardson. Considering that transportation infrastructure is supposed to be one of the top priorities of any government spending, it kind of makes you wonder how we ended up in this crisis situation. Then again, I guess all you have to do is look at what Governor Richardson wants to do with the latest projected windfall of nearly $400 million to understand:

But Richardson pointed to the revenue projections in renewing his appeal to lawmakers to approve a heath care expansion. The governor has said he’ll call a special session of the Legislature in August or September to consider mandating health insurance coverage for all residents. New Mexico has the nation’s second highest rate of uninsured.

“We can invest in health coverage in a fiscally responsible way,” Richardson said in a statement. “While cynics will no doubt complain about using revenue from oil and gas, I am confident — as I have been for the past six years — that New Mexico’s economy is performing well and will allow us to expand health care coverage to all New Mexicans.”

Yeah, that makes sense. Take a one time windfall and use it to fund a recurring entitlement program at a time when we are unable to meet our basic infrastructure needs. What I find most ironic is that this windfall comes from the oil and gas industry, yet the Governor is doing everything he can to increase operating costs on this industry and push them out of the state:

If the regulations are approved, Gallagher said it will add $150,000 in operating costs for every new well dug in the state.

“If industry drilled just 750 new pits next year, it would mean $112.5 million in additional costs,” Gallagher said. “We hired an economist to calculate those figures, and we presented them to the OCD, the lieutenant governor, and the governor. They’re not just kicking the state’s cash cow in the stomach, they’re gutting us.”

Raye Miller of Artesia-based Marbob Energy Corp. said many operators will cancel plans to drill new wells if the pit rules are passed.

All of this just serves to bring us full circle back to that town hall meeting:

Highway construction costs are soaring and federal funding to improve roads is declining, said Johnny Cope, chairman of the state Transportation Commission. At the same time, rising gas prices are hurting many New Mexicans, he added.

“This town hall will allow us to discuss these issues and explore some viable options to address the transportation needs of all New Mexicans,” Cope said.

Well, here is a thought Mr. Cope… Why don’t you call the Governor and ask him to adopt a three point plan:

  1. Stop adding unnecessary costs to drilling that are just going to manifest themselves as rising gas prices at the pump.
  2. Stop spending oil and gas revenue on creating new unnecessary programs and instead spend it on needed infrastructure.
  3. Stop unnecessary regulation on an industry that provided the lion’s share of our state budget revenue.

It seems to me that if that plan were followed, we wouldn’t even have transportation needs that weren’t being addressed (i.e. funded).