Aug 28, 2007
August 27, 2007
Maestas calls for diversification of Northern N.M. economy
LOS ALAMOS — The mayor of Española again pushed state lawmakers Monday to consider ways to diversify the economy of Northern New Mexico, especially now that people up north are concerned about possible budget cuts at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Mayor Joseph Maestas also pressed top lab managers for better communication and said state and federal officials need a better plan to deal with past and possibly future job cuts.
“I strongly feel that economic development and investment plans for Northern New Mexico are badly needed to minimize, if not eliminate, the vulnerability of the regional economy, because of its dependence on LANL,” Maestas told legislators with the LANL Oversight Committee.
About 21 percent of the lab’s work force lived in Rio Arriba County in 2006, according to a lab fact sheet. Twenty-three percent lived in Santa Fe County. And 43 percent lived in Los Alamos County.
A total of 12,115 people worked at the lab through June 30. At least 400 contract jobs have been cut since last year as new lab managers absorbed new operating costs, such as state taxes, management fees and pension costs.
“A comprehensive state and federal plan to deal with those job cuts is long overdue,” Maestas told the committee.
State Rep. Jeanette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, told Maestas that these cuts have impacted more than the Española Valley.
“You need to listen to some of us as much as you want us to listen to you,” Wallace said. “Indeed it has hurt Northern New Mexico, and I include Los Alamos as part of Northern New Mexico.”
Maestas also said his community is apprehensive about the federal budget situation. The House has suggested cutting as much as $400 million from nuclear weapons programs at Los Alamos and Sandia National laboratories, compared to the 2007 fiscal year. But the Senate has put much of that money back in its version of the appropriations bill. A settlement has yet to be reached before the new spending year begins Oct. 1.
“Mayor Maestas, I would assure you that there are a lot of apprehensive people right here in Los Alamos,” Wallace said.
Contact Andy Lenderman at 986-3073 or email@example.com.