Fun on tap for sure

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Next four years should be busy

By Jay Miller

A hearty thanks to Gov.-Elect Susana Martinez for assuring that my job will remain easy and fun.
For 16 years, with Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson as governors, this job has been a joy.
I woke up every morning knowing they would give me something to write about that day.
Former Gov. Bruce King’s motto was “Let’s keep it between the fence posts.” Not much to write about there.
Martinez is not easing into her office, she is diving head first. With the current economic and political situations, she doesn’t have much choice. But she’s not being timid about it.
So let’s look at some of the big items that are confronting her already.
We’re at the point where band-aids and across-the-board cuts are worn out. Tough decisions now have to be made on what is too important to cut any more and what may have to be completely eliminated.
The Rail Runner commuter train isn’t popular with much of the state. The reality that it is almost exclusively for state employees to get to work is underlined this week by the decision to not run on Thanksgiving or the day after, Thanksgiving’s fine. But the day after is the biggest shopping day of the year.
Santa Fe merchants are furious. But what do you do with a train that really isn’t needed and that no one wants to buy? Susana will look for answers.
The spaceport isn’t universally popular. When most people can’t afford a Southwest Airlines ticket to Amarillo, we’re building a launch pad for millionaires.
Spaceport America does have possibilities for the future however. Not only will millionaires and their families be attracted to the area but space industries, too. This has been a Las Cruces project from beginning 20 years ago, which may give Martinez a little more enthusiasm about the project.
She wants to see more private investment in the spaceport. Good idea but she needs to assure that the commitment of Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic remains assured. Any transportation project involves some public investment.
Presumably the state jet is a goner. The plane was built for long hauls and we’ll hope Martinez doesn’t leave the state as often as Big Bill. It was too much of a campaign issue not to dump the jet.
Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico have long lobbied for a dental school to stand beside its medical school and law school. It would be prestigious and would help students and rural areas. But now is not the time for spending big bucks to build prestige.
Several health organizations recently have announced initiatives to extend dental coverage into rural areas of our state. This will be a non-starter. And if we ever can afford it, how about putting it somewhere else in the state?
Martinez wants to take a close look at the incentives we offer the film industry. A 25 percent rebate on costs incurred in the state is big but it appears the evidence is going to show that we should either stay where we are or get out of the business altogether.
New Mexico is one of 11 states offering a 25 percent rebate. Eight other states offer a 30 percent or better incentive. We have some other advantages, such as being close to Hollywood, where the deals still are done, and having great locations. But dropping our fiscal incentives appears to take us out of the picture.
A new governor plus a shift of 16 votes in the state House could mean another look at medicinal marijuana. Martinez’s law enforcement background plus that of some of her advisers, could mean that will be a big issue again.
And what about the death penalty that was repealed two years ago? That could be on the chopping block.  And what about collective bargaining for public employees? Abortions could enter the discussion again too.

Jay Miller