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Local lawmakers attend highway dedication event


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Legislators from Chaves County and throughout New Mexico last week came together for a ceremony dedicating a stretch of a highway to a former colleague.

The July 29 ceremony about 15 miles south of Clines Corners unveiled the sign for the Representative Lorenzo “Larry” Larrañaga Corridor. The 27-mile segment of U.S. 285 stretches from the highway’s intersection with Highway 60 near Encino north to mile post 250 near Clines Corners, according to a House Memorial Resolution passed unanimously in 2019 by the New Mexico Legislature authorizing the naming.

State Reps. Phelps Anderson and Greg Nibert — both Republicans from Roswell — and House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, were among a bipartisan assortment of former and retired state lawmakers who joined the Larrañaga family for the dedication. The ceremony occurred near the entrance to the ranch where Larrañaga was raised.

A Republican from Albuquerque, Larrañaga represented District 27 in the New Mexico House of Representatives from 1995 until his resignation in October 2018. He died at the age of 80, days after he announced his departure from the House.

“He was just a class act,” Townsend said Monday in describing Larrañaga, whom he was friends with for years. The two men served together in the Legislature in the final years of Larrañaga’s tenure in the House.

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Naming part of U.S. 285 after Larrañaga, Townsend said, is a fitting tribute to a man who worked as a state engineer and later chief administrator of the New Mexico State Highway Department, and who was held in high regard by legislators in both parties.

“I don’t know of a soul in Santa Fe that didn’t respect Larry,” he added.

Larrañaga, who served on the House Appropriations and Finance Committee — and was its chair from 2015-2017 when Republicans briefly held the majority — left his biggest mark legislatively in 2017 when he introduced legislation creating the state’s Rainy Day Fund, Townsend said.

The Fund — now widely known as the Larry Larrañaga Rainy Day Fund — puts away a portion of state money when the state is experiencing a fiscal boom that can be used in times when revenues are more lean, so taxes don’t don’t have to be raised and the budget does not have to be cut as deeply.

“And that was the type of legislation that Larry was known for over the years. And that was just good solid legislation that provided for every New Mexican equitably and not just Albuquerque or the metropolitan. I mean it was a bill that helped all New Mexicans,” Townsend said.

Members of the Larrañaga family were very appreciative of the dedication, Townsend said. Larrañaga himself though would likely not be as enthusiastic and tended to shy away from praise and ceremonies, especially when meant for him.

“He would have told us we had more important things to do,” Townsend said.

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

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