Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Mexico gubernatorial candidates on transportation-related issues

Candidates for elected offices often have clear-cut differences on issues of significance to voters. The race for governor in New Mexico is an exception to that rule when it comes to noteworthy transportation issues.

The victor in the race pitting Susana Martinez, the Republican nominee, and Diane Denish, the Democratic candidate, will be thrust into making decisions on how best to fix and maintain the state’s roads, commuter rail and what to do about the state’s law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. On the campaign trail, both candidates appear to share like minds on the issues.

A story in the Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the “candidates say they would take money from other government spending, including the administration’s budget and capital outlay spending, and put it toward road work.

That appears to be a switch from what typically seems to happen in state government. I cannot guess how many times I have reported on states taking money away from transportation budgets for use elsewhere. A soon-to-be governor is touting turning the tables? It’s about time.

The candidates have also addressed the Rail Runner commuter train. The express train is a centerpiece of outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson’s efforts to improve commutes in the Rio Grande corridor. Denish and Martinez say it would be worthwhile to take another look at the commuter train and whether it is worth keeping afloat.

Another issue on which the candidates share the same view is doing away with a state law that allows undocumented immigrants to get New Mexico driver’s licenses.

On her website, Martinez pulls no punches on the hot-button issue.

“This law encourages illegal immigrants to come to New Mexico and makes it more difficult for law enforcement officials to determine if someone is here illegally. Repealing this law is a commonsense step towards securing our border,” Martinez says.

She also cautions that as government looks to preserve the rule of law and take reasonable steps to secure the border, government must recognize that “legal immigrants who follow the rules and come to America seeking to improve their lives ... strengthen our nation.”