Lujan economic tour stops in Clovis

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan addresses media outside Cannon Air Force Base Thursday afternoon. The congressman said he’s made supporting projects that benefit military families a priority.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan told Clovis and Curry County officials Thursday that a $787 billion federal stimulus plan would bring help to ailing infrastructure and financially struggling American’s through credits, community improvement and growth and tax credits.

Lujan, D-N.M., visited the area Thursday — meeting with community and Cannon Air Force Base leaders and students and teachers at an elementary school — as part of his American Recovery and Reinvestment Act tour.

Though financial allocations are still being sorted out, the plan offers hope for much needed projects such as the Hull Street overpass and family-oriented construction projects at Cannon, he told Curry County Commissioners during a morning meeting.

Advancements in infrastructure, education and energy development are key points of the stimulus, he said.

“These projects have been needed for many, many years. You know the support for our infrastructure is crumbling today and the (Hull Street) bridge is a perfect example that. It shows how and why we need to be investing in our infrastructure,” he said.

“There’s going to become a lot of competitive grants that are going to become available.”

And there is a piece of the pie — $180 million — set aside for military construction projects “that could benefit Cannon.”

Cannon officials said Thursday the base currently has about 2,200 personnel and anticipates another 2,000 in the next couple of years, including the summer arrival of an AC-130H squadron.

A wish list of projects at the base includes a new childcare facility and other projects to support the families those troops will bring with them, Capt. Mae-Li Allison said following Lujan’s afternoon appearance at Cannon.

Average citizens will see benefit from the stimulus in a variety of ways, Lujan said, from job opportunities found in community projects and community betterment, to direct financial payments of about $250 to disabled veterans and those qualified for Social Security Income, Lujan said.

And 600,084 workers in New Mexico are expected to qualify for stimulus-created tax credits that could total $400 to $800, depending on marital status and other factors, he said.

“There were several different components to this,” Lujan said. “One was to see an immediate infusion into the economy with those that needed help the most. The working families, the tax credits where tax credits had not been extended in the past.

“The main thrust of this was to have job creation and invest in infrastructure,” he said. “This is the most robust investment in infrastructure since the 1950s. And to lay a foundation not only to repair roads, bridges or dams, water and wastewater facilities, but to build a backbone with a smart-grid and bring broadband into rural areas, is just important to looking into the future to see how we can develop an economy that is ready for the 21st century.”

Lujan said the needs of the state and citizens struggling in the turbulent economy outweigh the arguments of naysayers in state governments across the country who have pledged to boycott stimulus funds in their regions.