Senator Bingaman tours Tucumcari

by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

Although U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman was in Tucumcari less than 24 hours on Wednesday and Thursday, he managed to visit Mesalands Community College, the Ute Lake Ranch, make other stops and visit the Quay County Fair.

At the fairgrounds, Bingaman stayed for several hours to tour the exhibits and to watch the young boosters conduct some of their first pig showing.

Bingaman, who has an expressed interest in renewable energy, met with officials of Mesalands, which is proposing a wind energy center, and wind energy entrepreneur and supporter, Robert Lumpkin, as well as county and city officials.

Bingaman stressed that one of the ways efforts such as the college’s proposed North American Wind Research and Training Center could be assisted is through the recent energy bill which provides incentives to investors through tax credits for a 10-year period.

However, projects like this need to be in operation in 2007, and it may take longer to get investors, plan and develop such programs, Bingaman said.

“There is a real opportunity for this part of the state to develop and become a center for wind energy,” he said.
What hopefully will happen, Bingaman said, is that Congress will “extend and keep these tax credits which are essential to programs like this.”

Long term, Bingaman said there was a need for incentives for research and development into renewable energy by the public and private sectors.

For the next congressional session, Bingaman pitched the idea of focusing on an “invest in America” theme that would “extricate ourselves from some of the things we’ve become involved in” as well as, “putting a higher priority” on investments and training in the United States.

This would include, among other things, bringing the troops home, getting the nation’s fiscal house in order, improving the infrastructure – nationwide, changing the tax laws so that keeping production capacity in the states was more attractive to companies than building, say, factories in China, Bingaman said.

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are each nearly half Republican and Democratic, Bingaman said, adding that emphasis has to be placed on bipartisan issues.

“We’ve got to have bipartisan efforts,” he said. “Any of these items that we want to get done, we have to do it on a bipartisan basis.”

At the same time, he said, legislation is often passed “authorizing” certain programs, but lacking follow through: There is no “appropriating” or funding legislation to back up the programs, he said.

At a breakfast on Thursday, Bingaman was questioned about certain projects from supporters and constituents.
For example, Mesalands Community College President Phillip O. Barry asked about the re-authorization of Title V grants, which assists institutions that serve Hispanic students.

“I’d like to tell you that we’re going re-authorize it,” said Bingaman. “I hope we can but, it’s not a done deal.”
However, Bingaman said there may be a possibility of extending that legislation beyond 2007.

Someone else in the audience asked about progress on a farm bill.

Banker Leo Thrasher of Tucumcari, told the congressman that he supported the crop insurance program because it stressed better farming techniques that, in the end, netted the farmer lower premiums.

Bingaman said the Bush Administration was reluctant to get started on the bill until it knew what was going to happen on the global scene with international trade agreements that are trying to be worked out in the Doha negotiations. These talks between various countries, under the leadership of the World Trade Organization, are being carried out in Doha, Qatar, on the Persian Gulf.