Thursday News Roundup: NM Could Lose Up To $25M In Tobacco Revenues

Oct 31, 2013

NM Could Lose Up To $25M In Tobacco Revenues - Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez's administration plans to cut spending on several health and education programs because New Mexico faces the loss of up to $25 million from a nationwide settlement with tobacco companies.

The state expected to collect about $39 million in tobacco payments in the current budget year. However, the attorney general's office said Wednesday that amount will be lowered because of an arbitration ruling against New Mexico and five others states in September.

The state is using nearly $20 million in tobacco revenue this year for early childhood services and to shore up a lottery-financed college scholarship program. About $19 million is for health programs.

Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford said his agency will trim budget distributions for tobacco-funded programs to offset the reduced revenue.


Governor To Highlight Internet Access Program - Associated Press

Gov. Susana Martinez plans to announce that lower-income New Mexico families may qualify for discounted broadband Internet service under a program offered by cable television provider Comcast.

Martinez is to join with Comcast officials on Thursday in Albuquerque to promote the third year of the company's program that allows some families with school children to obtain Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax.

Families may be eligible for the Internet program if they have children that qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

The governor's office said that former Super Bowl-winning NFL coach Tony Dungy is participate in Thursday's announcement. Dungy serves as a Comcast spokesman for the Internet program.

More Than 850,000 attend NM hot-air balloon fest - Associated Press

An annual hot-air balloon festival in New Mexico that draws visitors from around the globe says its attendance increased substantially this year over last.

The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta reports 2013 attendance of just under 857,000. That's up from 714,000 in 2012.

According to the fiesta, 554 balloons from 18 countries participated.

Spaceport America In NM To Seek More State Money - Associated Press

Virgin Galactic has again pushed back its estimated start date for launching commercial flights from New Mexico's Spaceport America. And spaceport officials say they'll need more state money to make up for lost user fees and visitor revenue at the fledging project.

The spaceport's director, Christine Anderson, says she plans to ask the Legislature for $7 million to finish paving a road between the facility and Las Cruces because other expenses have eaten into her budget.

The budget assumed that Virgin's space flights would begin in February 2014, but they're now slated for August.

The spaceport's visitor center was expected to open at the end of this year, but the center and its theme-park style, space-related experiences is a year behind.

Virgin Galactic began paying its $1 million a year rent on the facility in January.