EDITORIAL: Richardson still on the job

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By The Staff

As hard as it must have been for him, Gov. Bill Richardson did the right thing by withdrawing his name from nomination as secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department. It’s best for both the nation and, hopefully, our state.

More than likely, New Mexico’s governor backed away from the job with the greatest of reluctance. By his very nature, he would rather fight than quit, so he must have had some encouragement from Barack Obama to withdraw. The president-elect doesn’t need Richardson’s questionable confirmation to slow the momentum for a massive economic stimulus package in the early days of the new administration.

The deal-breaker came in the form of a federal grand jury investigation into a possible “pay-to-play” scheme involving the governor and a financial company that donated to Richardson’s political action committees and received state work. It’s too early to tell what the federal investigation into CDR Financial Products will find, but given his connections to this embattled California firm, it doesn’t look good for Gov. Richardson.

Meanwhile, let’s hope it is benefical to the state that he will be in the governor’s chair during the upcoming legislative session. Previously it looked as if the session was going to be bifurcated — with Richardson kicking off the session then leaving the state for his federal appointment and leaving Diane Denish to do cleanup. But now it appears Richardson will be here for it all. He may be distracted by the CDR probe, but he has a track record of pushing through important legislation, and we’ll soon see if he has the political muscle this time around to provide the necessary leadership.

Unfortunately, the CDR investigation will be occurring during a legislative session that is arguably more important than any previous session in which Richardson has been governor. The state is facing a financial shortfall approaching a half-billion dollars, brought on by a drop in oil and gas tax revenues. As a result, lawmakers face some tough decisions, and will need some strong leadership from the governor’s office. Reserve funds will have to be tapped, pet projects will need to be scrapped and education funding will have to be restricted to necessities only.

It’s going to be challenging session in Santa Fe, to say the least. Let’s hope Richardson can give it the attention it deserves.