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Richardson taps Anaya for stimulus office

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By Roger Snodgrass

SANTA FE – Gov. Bill Richardson asked former Gov. Toney Anaya to lead a newly created Office of Recovery and Reinvestment. The new office will be charged with allocating at least $1.8 billion of federal stimulus money slated for New Mexico over the next 18 months.

Richardson introduced Anaya and a handpicked team of veteran state-government workers at a Capitol press conference Wednesday.

Richardson named Lt. Gov. Diane Denish to an advisory group led by his science advisory Tom Bowles, who was formerly the chief scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

That group, Richardson said would focus on accessing a share of some $80 billion that will be available through competitive grants.

Denish said she would champion the state’s rural communities, areas where jobs and funds are needed, but places that might not have the staff or expertise to participate in the process.

“This group will play a key role in helping us arrive at the best strategies to capture federal Recovery funds that are up for grabs to New Mexico – specifically – through competitive grants,” Richardson said. “Working together, we'll put our best minds on the job to compete successfully for these funds, and maximize opportunities for all New Mexicans.”

Anaya, a former governor and attorney general of New Mexico, was named executive director of the new office. Richardson called him a “visionary,” and recalled that he led the state through a recession during his term as governor from 1983-1987.

The governor invited party leaders from the House and Senate, including House Speaker Ben Lujan and Senate Majority Leader Ken Sanchez. Albuquerque Martin Chavez said he already had 10 teams working to capture every available dollar for the city.

Anaya introduced members of his advisory team, including Dona Cook, deputy secretary of the Taxation and Revenue Department, Bill Dunbar, deputy secretary, N.M. Children, Youth and Families Department and Dannette Burch, deputy secretary for budget and policy in the N.M. Department of Finance and Administration, among several others senior officials with relevant experience.

Because the funds are non-recurring, the governor said he was determined to avoid creating a new bureaucracy.

Transportation Secretary Larry Girón outlined $106 million in state highway projects ready to go with the influx of federal funds. A total of $252 million has been allotted to New Mexico in the package, but some of those funds will flow down to cities and counties.

Richardson said construction on the first three projects would begin next month. Another two projects go out to bid this week and a sixth project the following week. (See sidebar for a list of road projects.)

Richardson also announced the launch of a new web site for the N.M. Office of Recovery and Reinvestment, at http://www.recovery.state.nm.us/

The site will provide ongoing information and updates about the stimulus-funding program. Visitors to the site, a message says, will be able to follow how the funds are used and track progress on authorized projects.

Anaya spoke of the stimulus package as both a challenge and opportunity. With changes occurring on a daily and hourly basis from funds flowing through federal programs, he said the process would require a great deal of attention.

At the same time, he said, the funds offered the opportunity to transform New Mexico’s economy, especially in terms of infrastructure, like public transportation and broadband availability.

“We can’t squander this opportunity,” Anaya said

The stimulus package is supposed to create 22,000 jobs in New Mexico.

Health and human services, including Medicaid, emergency and supplemental food assistance and shelter programs make up the largest portion of funds, about one-third of the total. Education, s expected to obtain an additional $590 million. Some of those funds will help school systems throughout the state avoid layoffs.

Highways first

Here are some highway projects the Department of Transportation plans to start with federal economic stimulus money.

• U.S. 84-285, rebuilding about two miles of the highway in the Española area, mileposts 186-188.

• U.S. 84-285, rebuilding two miles of the highway and frontage roads from Arroyo Seco to La Puebla, which are just south of Española, mileposts 184-186.

• U.S. 491, pavement improvements north of Tohatchi, mile posts 15-29.

• U.S. 62-180, construction of new lanes to make it a four-lane road from near Carlsbad to the Texas state line, mileposts 6-26.

• NM 128, repaving and rebuilding the two-lane road near Jal, mileposts 22-38.5.

• Interstate 40, improving the Paseo del Volcan/West Central interchange on the western edge of Albuquerque.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.