Since when is Bill Richardson concerned about debt and deficits?

Have you ever been part of a group that cared more about numbers than membership actually meaning anything? I think the Fiscal Leadership Council may have fallen into that trap with the addition of former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to its membership.

According to the group, it is a “bipartisan group of 41 former governors – 20 Republicans and 21 Democrats – from across the country united in the belief that our mounting national debt must be addressed to preserve America’s long-term fiscal health and prosperity.” Certainly, the debt and deficits are serious issues worthy of serious leadership, but Richardson’s track record as Gov. of New Mexico is hardly that of a fiscal conservative (I do wonder about the other 40 members of the group as well, but Richardson is the only one on the list from New Mexico).

As I noted in a 2007 National Review article, Richardson grew New Mexico spending by 11 percent in one year and by an average of 7 percent during his term in office. That’s hardly fiscally-conservative in a way that expresses concern about deficits or debt. Worse is Richardson’s deal to build and fund the Rail Runner. This commuter train was built with two hidden balloon payments of $230 million that come due in 2025 and 2027.

In other words, Richardson’s train deal allowed current voters to experience a tangible benefit that is to be paid for by future taxpayers. Thus, the Rail Runner deal resembles the fiscal design of Social Security and Medicare insofar as the program is “popular” with current recipients while their children and grandchildren who are either ignorant or cannot vote yet will have to bear the burden.

Perhaps Richardson has mended his ways and is now serious about not piling debt onto future generations. I certainly hope so. The situation is too serious to be otherwise.