Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has died. While we at the Rio Grande Foundation often disagreed with the former Gov. we also had our areas of agreement. Here are a few thoughts on him and his legacy.
Compared to today’s Democrats Richardson was a moderate. He genuinely seemed to desire economic growth for New Mexico and had a plan (which was fairly successful) to grow NM’s economy. He cut NM’s top income tax rate from 8.2% to 4.9% and reduced capital gains taxes as well.
Sadly, Richardson ALSO fell into the trap of big government boondoggles. His purchase of a supercomputer was one, but his Rail Runner and Spaceport have been very costly. The RailRunner continues to lose ridership while the Spaceport remains unproven even as Virgin Galactic FINALLY has started manned tourism launches. Subsidies for Eclipse Aviation and Schott Solar also failed to create long-term economic success. Richardson also laid the groundwork for New Mexico’s costly film subsidies which have helped film while failing to more broadly develop New Mexico’s economy despite hundreds of millions in subsidies.
Richardson was pro-2nd Amendment, especially compared to modern Democrats. He was endorsed by the NRA twice.
In broader terms Richardson was a consensus-builder who genuinely tried to represent the entire state whereas current Gov. Lujan Grisham often ignores rural New Mexico in favor of vote-rich urban areas.
Richardson (gently) reproached Gov. Lujan Grisham for her overly-zealous failed COVID lockdown strategy. He also (sagely) pushed NM legislators and Lujan Grisham to avoid raising taxes in the most recent legislative session.
Finally, as with so many other New Mexico politicians, ethical questions abound. Richardson was associated with noted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and missed out on a key role in the Obama Administration due to ethical questions. There is likely a great deal to both of these stories that the public is not aware of, but they highlight deep-seated problems with New Mexico’s political culture and Richardson’s own character.