I'm at Gov. Bill Richardson's press conference on what the federal stimulus means for New Mexico. Actually, I'm waiting in the lobby with all the other reporters. I'll update throughout the presscon.
Recap: Not much here you haven't heard already. The state's going to repave some roads—woo hoo! There's also the possibility of a Rail Runner connection to the Albuquerque Airport. And this afternoon, the state will be launching a website, www.recovery.state.nm.us
, where you can keep track of how New Mexico is spending its federal stimulus money.
Notes and more after the cut.
11:03 a.m.: Lots of other state officials and lawmakers here, including House Speaker Ben Lujan, Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, former Gov. Toney Anaya and Transportation Secretary Gary Giron.
11:10 a.m.: We're off. Anaya is the new state director of of recovery and reinvestment, Richardson says, and will be responsible for doling out $1.8 billion in federal funds.
"There will be extensive audits by the federal government, and we're required to meet exacting standards of accountability for the funds," Richardson says. Uh oh.
The Guv warns that these are one-time funds. "The recovery package is not a panacea," he says.
11:16 a.m.: Beginning this afternoon, the state will launch a website--www.recovery.state.nm.us.
Richardson encourages citizens to send their ideas for spending the federal money through that site. Here's a directory
of other state "recovery" sites.
11:18 a.m.: Richardson is rattling off a list of highway projects worth $106 million that will supposedly create 500 jobs.
11:20 a.m.: Anaya is up now. "We're all in the same boat together. We're all going to sink or swim together," he says, addressing state lawmakers and local leaders.
Anaya says it's important to "institutionalize" Richardson's plans to "redesign the economy of New Mexico."
"The economy will never bee the same in this country," he says.
11:27 a.m.: Now Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who will be leading efforts to obtain competitive grants in rural areas of the state. "Sometimes, in these times, it's the rural communities that get hit the worst," she says. "As someone who comes from a smaller community, I'm going to be a forceful advocate."
11:30 a.m.: Now Marty Chavez. "I worry in New Mexico we grow complacent, because New Mexico's doing better than the rest of the nation," he says. The Albuquerque mayor takes a dig at "no growth" advocates, saying that they finally got what they wanted with this recession.
11:32 a.m.: Ben Lujan is rambling. Briefly. Rep. W. Ken Martinez would "like to see all of this money if possible to get directed to New Mexico families." Great! Where does the line start?
Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, who chairs the House Appropriations committee, says don't forget the cities. "Albuquerque is the engine that runs the state," he says.
11:50: We've been taking questions for a bit, here. I asked what the point was of asking for public recommendations through the recovery website, when officials are focusing on projects that can get off the ground immediately.
Anaya says staff will review spending suggestions from the public. Richardson says he hopes rural communities "will use this to connect with us so hopefully they're not excluded."
Which ties in to another reporter's question: What's the legislature's role?
"I asked the legislature to send me names of individuals who will work with us on the stimulus plan," Richardson says.
Later, he said he wasn't sure there'd be a need for a special session right after the current one ends.
11:54 a.m.: Richardson spokesman Paul Shipley says the state recovery website will feature state funding requests as soon as they're sent to the feds.
11:56 a.m.: Oh, here's a headline: Richardson says he wants to apply for a competitive federal grant to connect the Rail Runner to the Albuquerque Sunport
. That's good news! I was wondering about all this emphasis on highways...
That's it. Later.
12:16 p.m.: Back at the office. Here's the text of the handout from this little stimufest, including biographies of the "team members" charged with New Mexico's economic recovery:
SANTA FE- Governor Bill Richardson today announced the creation of the New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment. The temporary office will oversee spending of the $1.8 billion in federal stimulus money expected to be invested in New Mexico during the next two years.
Governor Richardson appointed former Governor Toney Anaya to lead the office, which will work closely with state agencies to facilitate access to funding, assist with compliance, and promote transparency throughout the process.
“I have put together a team of experts who I can count on to cut through the bureaucracy and red tape that comes along with the stimulus money,” said Governor Richardson. “We need to target this money where it is needed most – creating jobs in New Mexico communities.”
The New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment will be run by top officials on loan from state agencies directly involved with the federal spending (list attached). The office will operate under current agency funding and utilize existing office space. Governor Richardson's Chief of Staff, Brian Condit, and Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Katherine Miller will also work closely with the group.
The Governor also announced the activation of the New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment Website, www.recovery.state.nm.us. The website features a summary of how the federal stimulus funding will affect New Mexico, links to agencies and programs involved, answers to frequently asked questions, and a form to allow interested businesses or organizations to suggest a project for possible funding.
Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish will join an advisory group, led by Governor Richardson's Science adviser Tom Bowles that will focus specifically on accessing a share of the billions of dollars available through the competitive grants process. The Lieutenant Governor will work to ensure that rural communities throughout New Mexico will have an opportunity to participate in the process.
“This group will play a key role in helping us arrive at the best strategies to capture federal Recovery funds that are up for grabs to New Mexico – specifically -- through competitive grants,” added Governor Richardson. “Working together, we'll put our best minds on the job to compete successfully for these funds, and maximize opportunities for all New Mexicans.”
Governor Richardson also announced that the New Mexico Department of Transportation is prepared to begin work on six highway projects worth more than $106 million, creating 500 new construction jobs. The Governor today signed letters of certification for the projects, a step required by the federal government before the state can access funding for the work.
Three projects have been put out to public bid, and construction will commence by the end of April. Two more projects will be put out to bid on Friday, and the sixth project will be put out next week. Construction on those three projects will start in May. Highway projects soon will be under construction at:
US 84/285 between Pojoaque and Espanola (2);
US 491 between Tohatchi and Shiprock;
US 62/180 between Carlsbad and the Texas State Line;
NM 128 between Junction 31 and east of Jal; and
I-40 Paseo Del Volcan/West Central Interchange
All of these projects were part of GRIP I, and were passed and approved with the Legislature.
With these projects, New Mexico will be one of the first states in the nation to draw down these critical highway funds, and put them to work to stimulate the economy today.
New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment
Governor Toney Anaya, Executive Director
Toney Anaya is a former Governor and Attorney General of New Mexico. As Governor, he was known as a visionary with an interest in finances, the economy, education, energy, and the environment who successfully steered his state through a national recession. Current Governor Bill Richardson has publicly given Anaya credit for initiating some Richardson policies, including education reform and a commuter train from central New Mexico north to Santa Fe. As Attorney General, he was recognized for transforming a previously obscure office into a major force in Government.
Dona Cook, Deputy Secretary of the NM Taxation and Revenue Dept.
Ms. Cook has over 25 years of State Government experience, of which 16 of those years have been as deputy cabinet secretary for six cabinets. She also served as State Budget Director. Dona has worked for seven Governors and for the legislature for eight years. She has also been a high school teacher, law firm administrator and vice president and chief operating officer for a subsidiary of a Fortune 100 engineering and construction company.
Bill Dunbar, Deputy Secretary NM Children, Youth, and Families Dept.
Mr. Dunbar has served in various government positions such as, Deputy Director for the Office of Workforce Development, Division Director for Human Services Department- Income Support Division, Consultant for IBM and New Mexico Highlands University. He also worked as a Principal Analyst for the Legislative Finance Committee and as a consultant for the LFC.
Dannette Burch, Deputy Secretary for Budget and Policy NM Dept. of Finance and Administration
Ms. Burch's experience in accounting, auditing, budgeting and performance-based budgeting are directly in line with what is required to implement ARRA in New Mexico.
She has served with DFA for more than 6 years and has directed the development and implementation of policies and procedures to provide professional and coordinated policy development, financial analysis, and fiscal and programmatic oversight on behalf of the taxpayer to the Governor, Legislature and state agencies.
Neil Meoni, Director, Project Oversight and Compliance Division, NM Dept. of Information Technologies
Mr. Meoni has an exceptional record as a manager/executive serving in increasing demanding positions within diverse federal and state organizations. He has served as Chief of Staff, Office of the NM Chief Information Officer. In his current position he oversees over sixty state Information Technology projects totaling over $200 million dollars ensuring compliance with state rules, standards, initiatives and strategic plans.
Daryl Schwebach, Deputy Secretary for Finance and Administration, NM Human Services Dept.
Mr. Schwebach has 20 years experience in state budget and financial management, Human Resource management, Information Technology management, and facility management. He currently manages a $4.2 billion budget for the Human Services Department, comprised primarily of Federal Funds from 30 different grants, including Medicaid, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (“SNAP”, formerly known as “Food Stamps.”), and others.
Debra Griego, Division Director, Department of Finance and Administration
Ms. Griego has worked in state government for over twenty seven years in various capacities and for several agencies including the State Engineer's Office, the General Services Department, and the Department of Finance and Administration. She has vast experience in Budget, Finance, Contracting and Management in State government.
Dr. Thomas Bowles, Science Adviser, Office of Governor Bill Richardson
On assignment from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Governor's office, Dr. Bowles has advanced development of clean energy technologies in New Mexico, been effective in coordinating science and technology initiatives with our national laboratories, universities, and businesses, and led the development of the state supercomputing center. Prior to working with the Governor's Office Bowles served at Los Alamos National Lab on the senior executive board as Chief Science Officer and had oversight of all science activities at the laboratory.