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Gov. Martinez defends air authority veto

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Gov. Susana Martinez, R-NM, spoke about her record from the last eight years on the economy, the state budget and education at a Roswell Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday. (Alex Ross Photo)

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Gov. Susana Martinez spoke to the Roswell Chamber of Commerce Wednesday where she defended her veto of a bill that would have created an independent air authority to oversee development of the Roswell International Air Center and touted her record on the state budget, job creation and education.

The stop was one of several Martinez said she will make throughout southeastern New Mexico.

Martinez, a Republican, was first elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. She is unable to run for re-election due to term limits. Instead Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, and Republican Steve Pearce are vying for her seat.

Before her address to the chamber, Martinez briefly stopped at the Eastern New Mexico State Fairgrounds to watch the Market Lamb show at the Chaves County 4-H/FFA Fair. Martinez said she stopped by the fair because she wanted to talk with dairy farmers to hear their concerns and express her gratitude about what they do for the state.

She said dairy farmers, along with cheese and mozzarella factories in the state, make dairy big in New Mexico.

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“That is a huge deal, and we have it right here in New Mexico because of our dairymen,” she said.

During her 30-minute speech to the chamber, Martinez explained her veto of a bill that would have created an independent authority to govern the Roswell airfield, saying she opposed it because members of the authority would not have been elected by the people.

Martinez said that for a long time, there has been discussion about how the former Walker Air Force Base can be used to create jobs and strengthen the local economy.

She said the RIAC has economic potential, but opposed the air authority whose members, in her opinion, should have gone through the election process.

Martinez said the public has recourse when it comes to legislators who they can vote out or re-elect based on performance, but voters would not have had that privilege with the air authority.

“Really this is something that should be up to the voters to decide,” she said.

Martinez said that the authority would have been granted eminent domain powers for the entire base that is surrounded by a residential area.

People who have eminent domain power should be elected and not appointed, she said.

“Those are people that are elected and accountable to the voters,” Martinez said.

Martinez also touted the work her administration has done on improving both the state’s economy and budget.

She said that when she took office in 2011, the state faced a massive structural deficit, made worse by the effects of the Great Recession, and a drop in oil prices. The state was also hurt by federal spending cuts put in place by sequestration, where Congress and President Barack Obama agreed to large spending reductions in defense and non-defense spending to shrink the federal budget deficit.

New Mexico is heavily dependent on federal dollars because it is home to four military bases and three national research labs.

Martinez, who campaigned on a promise to balance the state budget said she was able to balance the budget without breaking a campaign pledge to not raise taxes.

“All eight years, I have kept my promise because I did not want to be known as just another politician,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that we are recognized as a place where people could come, live, raise their kids, grow their business.”

Martinez said instead of raising taxes, her administration cut 57 taxes and fees since she took office.

She added that rather than increase taxes, the state budget deficit in the short-term was tackled by paring back or “right-sizing” the state’s government workforce.

To withstand the volatility of the recession and low oil prices and lack of federal dollars, Martinez said her administration aimed to diversify the state economy.

“We had to make sure that other companies here in New Mexico were able to grow and we had to make sure that other companies who wanted to come to New Mexico had the opportunity to be here,” she said.

Martinez said one of the first things done was to reduce the state’s corporate tax by 26 percent and reduce regulations to make New Mexico cheaper for companies to do business with and more attractive for businesses from outside the state.

She said that previously New Mexico had not been seen by businesses as a state where they could grow and expand. Businesses looking to relocate would overlook New Mexico and go to other states such as Texas, Arizona, Utah and California.

“We were never looked at, that is because we were punitive to businesses,” she said.

Because of tax cuts and reductions in regulations, New Mexico has started to compete with many of the states jobs used to flock to. Companies such as Facebook are now relocating or looking to open facilities in New Mexico.

“Finally, we are actually competitive with states that got the deal every single time,” she said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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