When the New Mexico Legislature adjourned Thursday, supporters of Spaceport America there breathed sighs of relief. Two bills that would have altered use of a spaceport-related sales tax failed to pass before adjournment, and thus died, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported. As previously noted here, one bill would have prevented the state’s spaceport authority from using excess tax revenues to fund spaceport operations, while another would have reduced state aid to local schools by the amount of tax revenues collected for those purposes. In addition, legislators passed a capital works bill that includes $6 million to fund the next phase of work on a road that leads to the spaceport from the south.
Meanwhile, in California, nine Democratic members of the state’s Congressional delegation sent a latter Thursday to University of California president Janet Napolitano, asking her to reconsider a decision to end university funding of Lick Observatory near San Jose. Late last year, the UC system decided to phase out funding of the observatory—about $1.8 million a year—starting in 2016, with funding ending entirely in 2018, and focus instead on the much larger Keck Observatory and the planned Thirty Meter Telescope. “While we certainly understand the constraints of tight budgets, it would be short-sighted to pinch pennies by shutting down this exemplary facility,” the members, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, write, arguing that the 125-year-old observatory’s “time is not passed.”