LAS CRUCES – Gov. Susana Martinez, the final speaker at the Domenici Public Policy Conference here Thursday, touted tax reform legislation and development of the Santa Teresa transportation and manufacturing hub as huge economic gains for New Mexico.
“A 22 percent reduction in business tax rates … puts us on a more competitive basis with surrounding states, said Martinez, referring to a corporate income tax cut that was part of what she called a sweeping tax reform package earlier this year.
The Republican governor, who is expected to seek re-election next year, attributed the tax package to a bipartisan effort.
Martinez said Santa Teresa, south of Las Cruces on the Mexican border, is developing as a “world-class industrial zone and it’s going to be right here in New Mexico.”
Martinez vowed to continue her battle in the Legislature to end public school “social promotions,” or advancement to the fourth grade, of third-graders who don’t read well.
“I will fight long and hard to ensure our kids are reading before they leave the third grade,” she said.
Another conference speaker Thursday, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Obamacare was on the right track in trying to address access to health care but did nothing to address problems of health care costs.
Frist, a surgeon, said improving “affordable access to health care is the moral thing to do,” but he said the law lacks broad public support and has been embraced by only about half the states.
“The hard part is the implementation of the law,” he said, with major components taking effect in 2014. “It’s going to be a tough six months.”
But Frist also cited breakthroughs in medical technology by private entrepreneurs. “This is what’s out there to impact cost,” he said.
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton told the Domenici conference the country is jeopardized by shifting and unclear foreign policy under President Barack Obama.
“Not talking about dangers and challenges doesn’t mean they go away,” Bolton said.
Bolton called Iran and its development of nuclear weapons the most critical issue in the Middle East and said it’s not getting enough attention from the current administration.
Bolton belittled efforts to work with Russia on civil war issues in Syria.
“The Assad regime is Russia’s only ally in the Arab world,” Bolton said. “To say the U.S. and Russia have a common interest in Syria is a little like saying the Mafia and police have a common interest in law enforcement.”
Brig. Gen. Gwen Bingham, commander of White Sands Missile Range, gave a detailed presentation of the varied military and scientific missions at the huge testing range. She also noted its many cultural and biological assets.
She called the 3,200-square-mile test range a “national treasure” as well as the nation’s largest expanse for national defense testing.
Former Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, for whom the event is named, attended both days of the sixth conference put on by the Domenici Institute at New Mexico State University.
Many speakers thanked Domenici for his leadership and help in developing science and research capabilities in New Mexico during his 36 years in the Senate.
Presentations of conference speakers can be viewed in the Domenici Institute video archives at domenici.nmsu.edu.