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Mon, Jun 28, 2004

New Mexico Governor To Fly High

Plans On Buying $4 Million Turboprop

How would you like $4 million to buy a new airplane?

Yeah, same here. But that's the budget New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has to work with as his administration goes shopping to replace their 1966 Aero Commander (file photo of type, below).

"Basically it’s a safety issue," said state transportation department spokesman S.U. Mahesh. "This is a wise decision to replace an old airplane."

But it's not quite as simple as that. The planned purchase has come under the watchful eyes of state legislators. Several lawmakers at a committee meeting in Silver City (NM) earlier this month raised questions about the purchase of a new aircraft. So they wrote a letter to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration, asking for more information.

"Initially when we heard about the purchase, we had questions in terms of the urgency of the purchase," said Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, a Santa Fe Democrat. He co-authored the letter along with committee chairman Ben Altamirano, a Democratic state senator from Silver City. The letter was dated June 10th.

"Committee members generally expressed support for the purchase of the aircraft; however, a number of concerns were raised," said Altamirano.

But by the end of last week, Varela said committee members decided New Mexico should go ahead with the purchase of a used turboprop to fly Richardson and other leading state officials from place to place.

The bottom line seemed to be a concern about liability. "We don’t want to get into the situation of something happening to passengers in [the old] state airplane," said Varela.



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