NM Lawmaker Introduces Legislation to Limit Spaceport America Spending

WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
WhiteKnightTwo visited Spaceport America for the first time in three years on Wednesday. Below, you can see a full-scale model of SpaceShipTwo on the ramp. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

New Mexico State Senator Lee S. Cotter (R-Las Cruces) has introduced legislation to repeal the New Mexico Spaceport Authority’s (NMSA) power to issue bonds and limit its ability to used tax revenues to support Spaceport America.

Senate Bill 75 aims to remove the ability of NMSA to “issue revenue bonds and borrow money”.

The measure would also require the full amount of spaceport gross receipts tax revenues collected in Sierra and Dona Ana counties to be dedicated to paying the principal and interest on bonds that were issued to fund spaceport construction. This provision would take effect on July 1, 2015.

Residents of the two counties voted to impose a tax increase on themselves to help pay for the spaceport.

NMSA has been using excess tax revenues beyond what are needed to pay off the bonds to help support Spaceport America operations.  The authority has struggled to pay the bills due to years of delays by the spaceport’s anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic, to begin operations.

“Our county taxpayers did commit to helping build the spaceport. They did not commit to operating the Spaceport Authority for the state of New Mexico,” Cotter  wrote in an op-ed published in the Las Cruces Sun-News last February.

“A bait and switch has occurred. The monies designated for building the spaceport are now being used for operational expenses instead. Dona Ana County voters committed to paying off debt for the spaceport facility with an increase in their gross receipts tax dollars; they did not vote to pay for daily operations. That is the state’s obligation,” he wrote.