Gov. Bill Richardson says he's all for building the first veterans museum in the state, but his decision to veto a bill that would do just that has at least one lawmaker furious.
In his veto message, Richardson said he vetoed Republican Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson's bill because it would have put the museum in Doña Ana County without enough input from veterans from other parts of the state. Rawson's not buying it.
"All of his explanations are just a smoke screen," Rawson says. "I think he vetoed it because the governor doesn't like me because I haven't been a faithful, obedient servant to him."
Rawson says he met with Richardson during the Legislative Session, and the governor told him he would support his bill. Not doing so, Rawson says, is a sign of Richardson's "lack of honor."
All of his explanations are just a smoke screen.
Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson
In an e-mailed reply, the Governor's Office responded to Rawson’s comments by saying, "The governor was very clear with Sen. Rawson when he told him he should consult with other veterans groups and communities like Rio Rancho and Santa Fe. But Sen. Rawson rammed this bill through without any consultation."
On March 5, Richardson announced he would convene a task force to decide the best place for the museum. "I strongly support building a museum to honor New Mexico’s veterans and rich military history,” Richardson said. "Unfortunately, (Sen. Rawson's bill) isn’t the bill to do it, because it discounts the input of our veterans statewide by designating a specific county as the location for the museum.”
Democratic Rep. Jeff Steinborn says he's disappointed by the governor’s decision, but he’s still confident Doña Ana County is the best place for such a landmark. He points out that the south-central region of New Mexico is home to one of the largest populations of active and retired military personnel in the state.
Steinborn adds that while other parts of New Mexico would probably like a museum, Doña Ana County's legislators have put their money where their mouth is by setting aside more than a million dollars in state funds appropriated to Doña Ana specifically for a museum.
"The governor has a tough job because he has to think about what's best for the whole state," Steinborn says. "But we look forward to continuing to make the case that Doña Ana County deserves this museum."