The New Mexico Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee has endorsed a bill that would prohibit Spaceport America from using excess taxes collected from Dona Ana and Sierra counties to fund its operations.
The measure, introduced by Republican Sen. Lee Cotter of Las Cruces, would require that funds collected from gross receipts taxes to pay off construction bond debt. Operational money would have to come out of the general state budget.
Residents of the two counties voted to impose a tax increase on themselves to help fund the $212 million spaceport located near the town of Truth or Consequences.
New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) Executive Director Christine Anderson, which oversees the spaceport, said she was disappointed in the committee’s decision.
Anderson said the measure, if approved by the Legislature, would cost the agency about $700,000 at what she called a “critical moment” for the Spaceport.
“That money has been acting as a lifeline for the Spaceport,” Anderson said. “If this bill is passed what I would need to do is go to the Legislature and ask the senators who voted for this bill if they will add the money to the authority’s budget at the cost to all the taxpayers in New Mexico. And that’s something I don’t want to do.”
Virgin Galactic, which is Spaceport America’s anchor tenant, is behind schedule on beginning commercial operations of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle from New Mexico. This has limited the revenues that NMSA can collect to maintain its operations.
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