Richardson calls for green energy
Jan 21, 2009 - Barry Massey - The
Gov. Bill Richardson called on the
Legislature Tuesday to look beyond the state's immediate
budget crisis and to push forward with governmental
programs, investments and tax cuts that can help create
jobs for New Mexicans.
"Our task this session is not just to
cut spending, pass two budgets and go home," the Democratic
governor said in his State of State speech to a joint
session of the Legislature. "Our task must be to keep
building a vibrant, optimistic New Mexico that looks
over the horizon with hope and anticipation."
The Legislature convened for a 60-day
session as the state confronts its worst financial
outlook in decades: a $450 million budget deficit
this year and the prospect of no new revenues to pay
for the growth of general government and public education
in the next fiscal year.
House Republican Whip Keith Gardner
of Roswell said the governor's spending initiatives
amounted to a "credit card plan."
"The truth is we've had tremendous spending
growth over the last few years but yet the revenues
have not grown at that same pace," said Gardner.
Richardson acknowledged the difficult
financial times confronting New Mexico and the nation,
but he also stressed the need to improve the state's
educational system and expand the economy.
"Today, this state faces a new challenge
- the biggest global financial crisis of our lifetime,"
said Richardson. "A cold financial winter has come,
and our state faces a serious budget shortfall. This
economic crisis is not of our making, nevertheless
it is ours to solve. This is our task, and our test.
Let us be equal to it."
The governor used his speech to outline
a broad legislative agenda - a mix of old and new
He renewed his support for several measures
that have failed in previous legislative session.
Among those are ethics reforms, including limits on
campaign contributions and an independent commission
to investigate allegations of ethical misconduct.
He reiterated his support for domestic partnerships
to give certain homosexual or heterosexual couples
the same rights and benefits as married couples.
Richardson also offered several new
initiatives, many of them intended to help New Mexico
"compete, attract and create high-paying green collar
Among Richardson's proposals:
_Establishing a "research applications
center" to take technology developed at universities
and government research labs and use it to move commercial
products in the marketplace.
_Tax incentives for renewable energy
development. The governor, for example, proposed expanding
the amount of large scale solar energy generation
that could qualify for a current tax credit. He wants
a five-year extension of an existing tax break for
the purchase of new hybrid electric vehicles
_A "green grid" initiative to encourage
improvements in the electrical transmission system
that will promote the use of renewable power sources,
such as solar and wind energy. Initially, the governor
proposes a demonstration project, potentially a neighborhood,
with an updated grid for monitoring and controlling
the flow of power to and from homes and into the main
House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe,
applauded Richardson's economic development and green
"If we're going to be able to get into
this new renewable energy industry, we've got to have
some tax incentives for those people to come in here,"
Richardson delivered his speech a little
more than three hours after President Barack Obama
was sworn into office in the nation's capital.
Until earlier this month it appeared
this would be Richardson's final State of the State
address. Obama had selected the governor to become
commerce secretary. But Richardson withdrew his nomination
because of a federal pay-to-play investigation into
whether a political donations influenced the hiring
of a financial firm for work on state transportation
The governor insists there's no wrongdoing
and says the grand jury investigation would have delayed
confirmation hearings and kept Obama from quickly
filling his cabinet.
At the outset of his speech, Richardson
joked about his situation.
"Now I know there are some legislators
who were looking forward to my departure and not having
to deal with me this session," Richardson said. "I'm
sorry to disappoint. I'll try to make it up to you
The Legislature's opening day was largely
ceremonial and devoted to organizational matters.
The House and Senate elected top leaders. There was
no surprise in the House where Speaker Ben Lujan,
D-Santa Fe, was re-elected. In the Senate, President
Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, retained his post
despite efforts of the Senate's Democratic majority
to oust him. Jennings ran into problems with some
of his Democratic colleagues because he helped a longtime
Republican senator during the general election.