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Eliminate redundancy to fix the budget

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By The Staff

If you could eliminate 4 percent of your debt with one pen stroke, you’d want to do that wouldn’t you — especially if it meant removing some redundancy from your expenditures? For example, if you are renting an apartment and it includes free cable Internet access, but you were also paying for DSL through the phone company, you’d quickly cancel your DSL service.

If your debt is typical, a 4 percent reduction would chop $746.16 off your household debt. Not huge, but surely worthy of removing. But if you are the state of New Mexico, a 4 percent savings would be $20 million — which is some real money.

When we are talking about 10 percent  across the board cuts in New Mexico to solve the budget shortfall — including schools, being able to save 4 percent in redundancy would mean others only had to have a 6 percent cut. Sounds good. Don’t you think our legislators should look at cutting government redundancy when they can?

One of the many ways the federal government cuts costs is to move them to the states. The item still gets taken care of, but it is now the problem of the state, not the feds. We can do the same thing here in New Mexico, but we can move costs to counties — especially when the counties are usurping the state authority and doing the task themselves. They want to take on the duty, even though the state legislature assigned the work to a specific state agency.

 I am talking about the Oil Conservation Division — created by the legislature to manage and regulate oil and gas development in New Mexico. They do this. But more and more counties have hired consultants and are spending money to create their own regulations which are usually more stringent than the state’s — making the OCD redundant. Santa Fe, Mora and Rio Arriba are just a few of the counties usurping the authority given to the OCD.

Last week at the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association’s Annual Meeting, during a Q & A following his presentation, Mark Fesmire, Director of the OCD, defended the counties’ right to create their own regulations.

Listening to his explanation, I thought, “Then why do we need you?” I raised my hand and asked what the division’s annual budget was. He sputtered, apparently not wanting to reveal the number (which I have since been unable to locate online). I pressed on with the above line of reasoning and he ultimately said that the OCD annual budget was only about 4 percent of the state’s budget problems — implying that it was not enough to make any difference. But when legislators are looking at cutting school budgets, I contend that cutting redundancy is a better idea.

On Oct. 17, our legislators will make a special trip to Santa Fe to determine if they can solve the budget crisis. One easy step is to dissolve the OCD. This would cost very few jobs as the counties would need to increase their staffing to be able to enforce the very regulations they have — or are — passing. They’ll need administrative staff, inspectors and engineers — just to name a few. And each county will need personnel.

Probably more jobs will be created. Certainly “job creation” has become a buzzword. This proposal is a win-win. We take a major step toward solving the state’s deficit while creating jobs.

This is just one area where state and county are duplicating efforts. If we look closely, there are surely others. Maybe even duplicity between the state and cities. Let’s suggest that our legislators start with disbanding the OCD and then look for other redundancies. I bet they are out there.

The likelihood of this happening is, sadly, slim. Since the legislature probably will not shutter the OCD, let’s ask them to push the issue up the ladder. In Colorado’s Summit County, some attempted to use cyanide regulation to shut down gold mining.  The case ended in the Colorado Supreme Court where it was decided that the county could not regulate cyanide use because the state already regulated it, pre-empting the county regulation. The gold mine is still in operation.

Both state and county should not be regulating the same thing — but with different rules. Our Supreme Court may need to get involved to determine that state regulations pre-empt the counties regulations. Then, like in Colorado, we can extract our natural wealth from the Earth in a way that is modern, technologically advanced, environmentally friendly and beneficial to the state budget.

  

Marita Noon is the Executive Direct of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE), a nonprofit organization advocating for citizen rights to energy freedom. She can be reached at marita@

responsiblenergy.org.