Spaceport America Augers in – Otero County Voters Reject Tax Hike

Voters in Otero County appear to have firmly rejected a proposed tax hike to help put millionauts into space.  The vote totals, as of 21:37 local time, were:

FOR: 8,179 (47.74%)
AGAINST: 8,954 (52.26%)

These are probably not official results yet, and I don’t know if there are any absentee ballots to count. But unless something significant changes, the measure has gone down to defeat.

What does this mean? Probably not that much. The Las Cruces-Sun News reports that 97 percent of the funding for Spaceport America is already in place. New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Steve Landeene told the newspaper: “Look at the deck that’s stacked against you. Otero County knew the spaceport is going with or without them.”

Voters in Sierra and Dona Ana counties earlier voted for tax increases to help fund the construction of the spaceport, which is set to be a base for Virgin Galactic and other commercial space companies. The three counties would have formed a joint tax district to provide about $6.6 million of the $198 million construction cost. Now, there will just be two counties involved.

It’s a defeat for Gov. Bill Richardson, who has pushed hard for the spaceport. Richardson is otherwise having a really good day; he earlier made a political break from the Clintons to endorse Barack Obama, and helped to deliver New Mexico to the Democratic president elect by a healthy margin (55% to 43%).

My guess is that Richardson will end up in the Cabinet. I think he would be a good candidate for Secretary of State. He’s got a lot of experience in Washington and abroad. We’ll have to see what happens.