The holidays are a wonderful time of year, when we reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the next. It's also a time to think about family and friends. New Mexico has a proud tradition of military service, and many of us have family serving far away. Please join Jill and me in sending our warmest thanks to the service members who are far from their family and friends this holiday season.
We've had an eventful year in Congress, and I'm pleased with the progress we made for New Mexico, especially in the last month. Congress has approved critical legislation, which I pushed hard for as a member of the Appropriations Committee and that is vital for New Mexico. The bill ensures stable budgets for Sandia and Los Alamos national labs, funds important water projects across the state, sustains key projects at our military bases, takes important steps to improve veterans' services – especially for those living in rural communities, and fully funds the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program – which helps ensure counties can provide local services New Mexicans rely on, such as schools, roads, and public safety. The legislation also makes important progress on an issue I have championed – improving technology transfer from our national labs. Tech transfer is an important way to create new businesses and jobs from the valuable work being done at Los Alamos and Sandia, and I'm excited we're making progress.
Another positive step was passage of a critical defense bill, which will strengthen New Mexico's military bases and federal defense installations and support our nation's service members and their families. In addition, I'm very proud that we approved several landmark public lands provisions that I have worked on for many years. Creating the Columbine Hondo wilderness near Wheeler Peak, making the Valles Caldera a unit of the National Park Service, and creating a Manhattan Project National Historical Park will allow us to preserve some of our state's most special landscapes and historic legacies, while boosting tourism and creating jobs in nearby communities. I want to thank the many New Mexicans who put in years of hard work, including former Senator Jeff Bingaman, my fellow Senator Martin Heinrich, and a coalition of sportsmen, conservationists, local business people, historians and others for helping us get these passed into law.
Next year, I will join a new committee, the Senate Commerce Committee. In combination with my assignments on the Appropriations, Foreign Relations, Indian Affairs and Rules committees, this assignment puts me in an exciting position to fight for issues that help create jobs in New Mexico – from trade and transportation to technology and the rapidly evolving space industry.
Jill and I wish all of you safe holidays and a happy new year, and I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of all New Mexicans in 2015.