By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Gov. Susana Martinez, accompanied by an entourage of staff, State Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico and state Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, made a stop in Tucumcari Thursday to conduct a “constituent day.”
She spent at least three hours speaking with constituents who had made appointments to speak with here one-on-one for about 10 minutes each. About a dozen individuals waited their turn to speak with the governor. A few city officials were there, as well, to offer support to individuals who received time with the governor.
Martinez mentioned the racino license Tucumcari competing for as a subject that came up in constituent talks. Also mentioned, she said, was the water level at Conchas Lake and keeping Conchas Lake State Park open despite the lake’s low water levels.
Another topic was the dispute between Ute Lake residents who depend on recreation and tourism, and agricultural interests in Curry and Roosevelt County for whom a pipeline is under construction to transport Ute Lake water to these southern counties. The dispute goes on as construction continues on the intake structures.
Others, according to Woods, talked about the Arch Hurley Conservancy District’s irrigation customers who are paying for their allotments of water, even though they aren’t receiving water.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has mandated these payments, Arch Hurley officials have said, to pay off the bureau’s capital investments in the Conchas Lake Dam and other infrastructure.
The governor also made time for an interview with the media.
Asked about economic development in northeast New Mexico, the governor said recent tax reforms have made New Mexico more competitive with surrounding states. She cited legislative moves like a reduction of 22 percent in business taxes approved in the last legislative session, and an elimination of taxes on goods made in the state that are sold outside of the state.
“That’s why we have gone from being 38th in the nation to No. 1 in export growth,” she said.
The state has not been able to offer much help in the face of drought, she said, but the state engineer is listening to both sides in the Ute Lake dispute to help devise a mutually beneficial solution.
On jobs and training, the governor cited two programs that are helping in the state. One is the Job Training Incentive Program in which the state will pay part of employees’ salaries while they train as an incentive for employers to hire and train more skilled workers.
The other is the Early College program for high schools students. In this program, the governor said, high school students can earn technical certificates by attending community college classes while still in high school. They receive certificates at the same time as they get their diploma and have a head start on either immediate work, or advancing to further education in the field they have chosen.
As examples, Martinez listed respiratory technician and engineering technician certificates that high school students can earn while they earn diplomas.
Renewable energy is another potential growth area for eastern New Mexico, currently hampered by a lack of power transmission lines to move the power to areas of high demand, where favorable pricing would encourage wind energy development. Martinez said the state can only encourage some “piggybacking” of new power transmission routes on existing lines.
Local Economic Development Act funding for renewable energy projects, she said, can encourage renewable energy development while assuring that the funds can be paid back if the projects fail.
The governor also touted the Summer Reading Challenge, which is designed to keep children in grades 2-4 reading over the summer.
“Reading over the summer keeps them from falling behind” when they advance to the next grade, she said.
Any child who can show he or she has read at least 12 books by Aug. 1, she said, will be eligible for a drawing in which the prizes include a hot-air balloon ride, an opportunity to get behind the scenes as junior zookeeper at the Albuquerque Biopark, a trip to Animal Kingdom at Disney World in Florida, a basketball signed by member of either the New Mexico State Aggies or the University of New Mexico Lobos basketball teams, or all-expense paid trips to Ruidoso or Red River.
After the constituent day activities, the governor and entourage toured Ute Lake.