ENMU student body president may want to sit this battle out

By Mike Linn

Good ole Bob Cornelius has taken aim at Gov. Bill Richardson. The Eastern New Mexico University student body president and director of Associated Students of New Mexico is a little perturbed by Richardson’s recent vetoes affecting ENMU and other state universities.
A little advice from the bleachers: Look out Bob. Bill is a tough one.
Personally, I laud Cornelius for his dedication to keeping tuition increases at bay. I’m just a little concerned about his methods of defense (Richardson doesn’t like criticism by others through the media).
Cornelius sent out a press release condemning Richardson’s decision to veto some $14 million in capital outlay projects, which Cornelius believed would increase tuition at Eastern.
He has also criticized the governor’s ideas for the lottery scholarship.
“It’s pretty tragic for Gov. Bill Richardson to say he’s pro-education and he repeatedly attacks education,” Cornelius told The Chase, ENMU’s student paper, in the March 15 edition. “I hope Governor Richardson can explain his rationale on why (he) is waging the war on the students of higher education.”
Easy big fella.
Remember, ole Bill’s gloves aren’t filled with feathers. Just ask Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell.
During the 2004 Legislative session Jennings criticized Richardson for his treatment of certain lobbyists, asked for an apology, and said if “…. this Legislature does not stand up on their feet and defend this institution, this governor will take us all straight to hell.”
When it came time to approve funding for Jennings’ district, Richardson added a little extra ink on his veto stamp.
Richardson cut roughly 37 percent of the money — about $1.7 million of $4.6 million — that Jennings and other legislators from Roswell had supported for projects in Chaves County.
Besides Jennings, other Roswell-area lawmakers also were among the most outspoken critics of Richardson during the 30-day session.
Richardson’s staff has contended the cuts were not related to the criticism from Roswell lawmakers.
A Roswell lawmaker thinks otherwise.
“How can anybody honestly say this was not retribution,” Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell, told The Associated Press. “Does the governor think the people of this state are that stupid?”
Given Richardson’s track record, I would caution Cornelius from expressing criticism of the governor, even though I admire the attitude.
But in the end, it seems Cornelius was complaining in vein: Eastern’s tuition increase won’t be as bad as expected.
The tuition is slated to rise about $72 for full-time students per semester, or by roughly 6 percent from last year, said Scott Smart, Eastern’s vice president for business and financial affairs.
Smart said the governor vetoed $155,000 from $21.8 million allocated to Eastern for general education for next year, which is less than 1 percent.
“We’re still getting 99.5 percent of what we expected. If I got a 99.5 percent on a test I would be pretty happy, that’s the way I look at it,” Smart said.
Moreover, Smart said the university cleared roughly $9 million, thanks to a general obligation bond that was approved. The money will go toward renovations and additions to Eastern.
The governor’s cuts in no way will break the bank accounts of Eastern students, as annual tuition increases in the 6 percent range are expected.
Even after questioning Cornelius and his tactics, it’s hard not to admire the chap. He’s David facing off against Goliath. And even if Richardson punishes him like he did the Roswell lawmakers, Cornelius will maintain his integrity, a long lost trait for many politicians.