Udall talks education, economy

By Sarah Meyer, Freedom New Mexico

Rep. Tom Udall addressed the Eastern New Mexico University Board of Regents on Friday during a visit to the area.

Udall, D-N.M., touched on legislative appropriations that would help eastern New Mexico, noting he serves on the House Appropriations Committee. He is serving his fifth term in Congress.

Pauline Ponce, vice president of the board of regents, asked Udall about the future of financial aid. She stressed the importance of education.
“In order for our country to maintain our status as an economic driver, we’re going to have to educate our students,” she said.

Udall said Congress recently approved “America Competes,” “a blueprint of where we need to go.” Under the program, the national laboratories will “adopt” schools with the idea of inspiring students to pursue scientific careers.

The House has passed two pieces of legislation, one for financial aid and one for Pell grants, he said.
ENMU president Steven Gamble commended Udall’s service.

“He does represent the people,” Gamble said, adding that Udall’s staff puts him right through when he calls.
“We certainly do appreciate how you have represented us,” Gamble said.

Udall also mentioned the effort to obtain funding for the Ute Water Project and a supplemental budget bill for fiscal year 2008 includes money for five CV-22s and four MC-130Js for Air Force Special Operations during his Portales visit.

All the planes wouldn’t come to Cannon Air Force Base, he said, adding that “people follow the planes.

“The sooner we get the funding, the sooner we get the planes, and the sooner we get the numbers up,” said Udall, who is running for the seat currently held by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who is retiring.

Udall said he has been working to get a farm bill passed, which he said is stalled in the Senate, and that he would like to see renewable tax credits for alternative energy extended for 10 years, rather than requiring annual reauthorization.

Udall also toured Cannon Air Force Base and ENMR-Plateau Telecommunications in Clovis

In a separate interview, Udall addressed the following issues:

Cannon Air Force Base: “I’ve fought very hard to make sure we have the new mission and that it’s funded in a way that makes sense for the community.”

War in Iraq: “It’s very difficult. There are no easy solutions. We’re caught in the middle of a religious civil war.” He said the United States needs to tell Iraq it’s time for them to “step up to the plate” and take care of their own security. “We need to tell Iraq we’re going to redeploy our forces within a year. We want to give them the best chance of success. And we need to make sure our troops are redeployed safely.”

Ute Water Project: “I have been a champion for eastern New Mexico communities on the water front. We’re going to work hard to try to get something done this year.”

Economy: “The middle class is getting hammered with dramatic increases. One of the first things we need to do is get the economy rolling again. The tax rebates are priming the pump by putting money into the hands of the people who are most likely to spend it.” He anticipates another economic stimulus bill that will extend unemployment benefits and help people get retrained. As far as energy prices, related to oil, he said, “We’re competing with everybody else. We need to suspend purchases for the strategic petroleum reserve. We need to go after speculators that are driving up oil prices and be more aggressive against price fixing.”

“We need to stabilize financial markets and keep people in their homes.”