New Mexico Update: Otera Residents to Vote on Tax Levy in November

Spaceport tax question will appear on Otero County ballot
Alamogordo Daily News

“The Otero County Commission heard a presentation and some citizen discussion prior to adopting a resolution to place a County Spaceport Regional Gross Receipts tax on the November ballot Thursday night.

“If approved, tax collections in Otero County would be combined with those already approved for collection in Doña Ana and Sierra counties to help fund construction of a launch site for commercial space vehicles in southern Sierra County. Construction for the $198 million project is to be completed in late 2010.

Parabolas: Space Property Rights, Rails to Space, and New Mexico Moves Forward

The Boston Globe’s Drake Bennett takes a look at lunar property rights and other space settlement issues in a story titled, “My space: If we really want to explore space, maybe we should sell it off to the highest bidders.”

“To get an idea of what the flight into space will really be like, you have to extrapolate from the experience of riding on one of Beardie’s Virgin trains. They’ll have closed the buffet before you even arrive in space and then the craft will be kept in a holding stack for four hours before you can land, during which time the air-conditioning will be switched off and the air will smell like the steam from a pressure cooker full of cabbage. Then, when you write to Branson at Necker Island to complain, you’ll get an automated reply from the customer services department in Slough.”

Speaking of which, New Mexico officials are pushing ahead with plans to build Spaceport America, where  Virgin Galactic is set to become an anchor tenant. Next up: a public vote in Otera County on a tax increase to support construction. The Alamogordo Daily News has the latest. The Las Cruces Sun-News also has an update here.

Sierra County Voters Approve Spaceport America Tax

Voters in Sierra County overwhelmingly approved an increase in the sales tax to help fund Spaceport America, New Mexico’s ambitious effort to build a gateway to the stars.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that 65 percent of voters approved the .25 cent tax increase, a wider margin than some had predicted. The 42 percent turnout was the highest ever for a special election.

“I’m feeling good,” New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Steve Landeene said. “It’s been an emotional day and obviously the outcome is a very positive emotion.”

The approval means that a taxation district can be formally established with Dona Ana County, whose residents narrowly approved the tax increase last year. Voters in neighboring Otera County will go to the polls in November.

New Mexico hopes the spaceport will be used for a variety of purposes, most prominently to send tourists on suborbital flights. The state is in negotiations with London-based Virgin Galactic to be an anchor tenant.

Quiet NM Town Divided on Eve of Crucial Spaceport Vote

The small, quiet town of Truth or Consequences, NM – best known for its thriving arts community and its access to hot springs and the state’s largest lake – has been thrust into the center of a debate over our future in space.

On Tuesday, voters in this community of 7,000 will help decide the fate of Spaceport America, New Mexico’s ambitious effort to build a gateway to the heavens. Residents in T or C and throughout Sierra County will vote on a .25 cent increase in the gross receipts tax to help fund the $198 million facility in the southern part of the county. A “yes” vote is crucial to forming a tax district with neighboring Doña Ana and Otera counties.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the vote could go either way. A pro-spaceport tax group, People for Aerospace, has been campaigning heavily throughout Sierra County, promoting the project’s economic benefits. However, other residents have opposed the tax increase, placing anti-tax signs on T or C streets and staging a rally over the weekend.


Virgin Galactic Dangles Free Spaceflight in Front of NM Voters

Only days before a crucial public vote on funding Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic has dangled the offer of one free spaceflight per year if residents approve a tax increase to help fund the spaceport.

The Las Cruces Sun-Times, quoting an Albuquerque Journal story, reports that Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn made the offer on Tuesday during a public forum in Truth or Consequences. The London-based company is expected to be an anchor tenant at the desert facility.

Voters in T or C and throughout Sierra County will go to the polls on Tuesday to vote on a .25 cent increase in the gross receipts tax. Approval is required to form a three-county tax district with Doña Ana and Otera counties.

Only one resident in the three counties would be able to go on a suborbital flight per year. The flights are being retailed at $200,000 each.

The vote in Sierra County is expected to be close, as was the one last year in Doña Ana County. (Otera residents have yet to vote.) The sprawling, sparsely populated county has about 12,600 residents, one in five of whom live below the poverty line. More than 28 percent of residents are 65 years or older. And Sierra County’s median household income in 2004 was only $23,821, less than two-thirds of New Mexico’s $37,838 median income.