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NM: Taxpayers could be left holding the bag at Spaceport America

By   /   December 13, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By Rob Nikolewski | Capitol Report New Mexico

SANTA FE — New Mexico taxpayers could be stuck with a multi-million spaceport and nothing to blast off if Virgin Galactic pulls out.

ALL FOR NOTHING: New Mexico’s Spaceport in Upham, N.M., is in peril. (AP photo)

Virgin Galactic has signed a 20-year lease with Spaceport — billed as the world’s first commercial port built specifically for sending tourists and payloads into space – but the company headed by billionaire Richard Branson said last month it may leave southern New Mexico if the Legislature does not pass liability protection guarantees for manufacturers and suppliers of private spaceflight operators such as Virgin Galactic.

New Mexico taxpayers have made a $209-million investment into Spaceport America, but if Virgin Galactic, it’s anchor tenant pulls out, the state would get only a “very limited” amount of money back in financial clawback provisions, the director of the Spaceport Authority told Capitol Report New Mexico.

Should the limited-protection guarantees not pass — as it has in the previous  two Roundhouse sessions — and Virgin makes good on its threat, what kind of financial clawbacks are in place for the state?

“I think somewhere in the ballpark of about $1.5 to $2 million, so it’s very limited,” Spaceport Executive Director Christine Anderson said. “That’s the way the agreement was written several years ago, before my time certainly. So it’s important, this piece of legislation is really important.”

Read the entire story at www.capitolreportnewmexico.com