GOP Senate leader targets New Mexico icon for spending cuts

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January 9, 2013

New Mexico

By Joel Williams

Santa Fe, New Mexico: United States Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took an opportunity during the opening session of the new Senate on January 4 to lash out against a New Mexican icon. "If we can't stop spending taxpayer dollars on robo-squirrels, and dancing robot DJ's or hot air balloon rides for Smokey the Bear, then there's no hope at all," McConnell remarked. He was referencing a Smokey the Bear hot air balloon, the idea of retired state forester Bill Chapel. It was first proposed in the 1980s, but it wasn't until 1993 that the balloon received funding.

Chapel, one of Smokey's biggest fans, took great offense to McConnell's comments. "I'm ready to go fist to fist with him," Chapel said. "We've learned since we've been able to walk that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Has the man never heard of that?" The balloon, which has an annual budget of nearly $200,000, receives around $30,000 from the National Forest Service every year.[1]

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