February 3, 2003
Jobs, Schools, Health Care Face Lawmakers, Wilson Says
By Deborah Baker
The Associated Press
SANTA FE In the "shadow of grief" from the space shuttle disaster, lawmakers must turn their attention to challenges close to home, U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson said Monday.
"The loss of Columbia hurts all of us deeply," the New Mexico Republican told the Legislature in a speech to a joint session.
Astronauts "are our conquistadors, our heroes in a world too often dominated by anti-heroes and worn with care," she said.
"You come to your work this week in the shadow of grief," she told lawmakers who began their 60-day session on Jan. 21. "But we have much work to do, and the rhythm of work and toil can heal."
Creating jobs, making schools better and improving health care top the list of challenges, Wilson said.
But "we cannot ignore the dangers from without," she said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell will lay out to members of the U.N. Security Council additional evidence that Iraq has failed to comply with U.N. resolutions, she said.
"For some, no evidence is enough. . . . For me, after looking at the evidence and thoughtfully considering it, I've seen enough," Wilson said.
Iraq is seeking to develop nuclear weapons again, is developing missiles that can hit neighboring states and is building unmanned aerial vehicles to spread chemical and biological agents, she said.
"I am concerned that Iraq is exploring ways to use these aerial vehicles for missions targeting the United States or Americans. . . . I hope this will not require military action, but it may."
The Republican congresswoman said she was pleased by the bipartisan support in New Mexico for lowering state taxes and commended Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson for making income tax relief a priority.
She also pledged to work with state and community leaders to keep Kirtland, Cannon, Holloman, and White Sands strong "so that jobs stay here" in the face of another round of military base closures in 2005.
Wilson plugged the school bond election scheduled Tuesday in Albuquerque, saying she would vote yes.
"La Mesa (Elementary School)
needs to fix the roof and they need new plumbing in the boys' bathroom. There are some things you just can't put off," she said.
Wilson urged the Legislature to eliminate the gross receipts tax on health care, and said she would work to get unfairly low Medicare reimbursement rates for New Mexico raised, to "put a tourniquet on our hemorrhage of health care professionals."