Harden speaks at Roundhouse Review

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

Local business leaders gathered Tuesday to get a first-hand impression of the 2006 New Mexico Legislature from Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis.

Harden was the featured guest of the Association of Commerce and Industry’s Roundhouse Review, one of 25 scheduled sessions in an eight-week period.

Sayuri Yamada, the vice president for government affairs for the ACI, said the sessions were set up to provide local leaders in government and business to know what happened in the Legislature and why certain legislation did or didn’t pass.

“As a business person,” said Yamada, who worked at a Santa Fe software company for 15 years before working with the ACI, “I think it’s very important that we (adapt) New Mexico as a business friendly state.”

As he addressed the attendees, Harden said being a business owner made some of the choices tough. Harden said one of the biggest issues during the session was the minimum-wage debate.

Harden said he works in the food service industry, and he pays a lot of entry-level workers at minimum wage. If they’re still showing up a week later, Harden joked, raises were negotiated.

Harden also had concerns with the ripple effect an increase would have. If a person earning $5.15 an hour is moved up to $7.50 an hour, there will be a time when the person making $11 an hour wants $13 an hour.

“All of that talk looks good if you’re running for president,” Harden said, joking about Gov. Bill Richardson. “That’s as close to bashing as I’ll get.”

Rep. Brian K. Moore, R-Clayton, had a prior commitment in Santa Fe and could not attend. Harden said he and Moore try to work together to maximize their shares of capital outlay money because the two have five counties in common for their representation — Quay, Union, Harding, Curry and San Miguel.

Two items Harden said he wanted for Mesalands Community College were $57,000 he introduced for the rodeo team that never got into appropriations and money for a wind research training center. Moore introduced a pair of capital outlay requests worth a total of $15 million, with the result a $50,000 appropriation that was vetoed by Richardson.

Otherwise, Harden said he felt Tucumcari and Quay County did better than many other counties.

“I was disappointed, but Quay fared pretty well,” Harden said.

After Harden bemoaned the lack of funding for a wind energy center, he was asked about the spaceport that the state committed $33 million toward. Harden said he had mixed emotions about the spaceport.

On the positives, Harden said, he feels the spaceport will make math and science high priorities in New Mexico education and that a spaceport would have likely ended up in Texas if not New Mexico. The problem, Harden said, was that it will require reoccurring funds that could hamper future Legislatures.