How to sell a spaceport tax

Now that two counties in souther New Mexico have passed a sales tax increase to help fund development of a commercial spaceport, attention now turns to the third and final county in the region, Otero, which includes the city of Alamogordo. So how you convince citizens to vote for a tax increase, even a relatively small one, during an economic slowdown, if not outright recession?

Apparently, it’s all about the children. The Alamogordo Daily News reports on a presentation about Spaceport America and the proposed tax increase given yesterday by Steve Landeene, executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority. With few high-tech job opportunities in the state, many young people leave the state looking for such work elsewhere, a trend Landeene and other supporters hope to reverse in part with the spaceport. He recounted his first meeting with governor Bill Richardson, who told Landeene that the state’s greatest export is “our kids”. “He was making a real profound statement and making sure that I got it,” Landeene said.

There’s some skepticism in the area about the economic benefits the county will realize from the spaceport, since it’s on the other side of a mountain range from the spaceport site. Also, the financial contribution that the Otero tax would provide is small: about $6.6 million of the nearly $200 million planned for the facility. Landeene warned that without that money, there could be “significant ramifications on infrastructure” at the spaceport. He added that without Otero participation in the spaceport tax, the county might not reap the benefits even if the spaceport gets built. “Yeah, Otero can hide on the sidelines, but then does anything happen over here? Maybe not.”

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