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Columns

  • EDD update: Bits, pieces, old theaters

    Anyone thinking that the state Economic Development Department has much significant to do with developing the economy should promptly drop the notion. The standard rhetoric aside, such thinking is an illusion.
    Start with there being a whole separate department devoted to tourism, a fair piece of the economy.
    Someone not knowing the name of the department but curious about the state might find the state website, newmexico.gov, the “official state portal.” A bit of looking at the site would lead to the lower left corner and a headline, “business resources,” with six subheads including “business assistance, economic development, job training incentives program.” I clicked on all six subheads, but connected with just two. My 2008 vintage MacBook Pro just wasn’t good enough.
    Newmexico.gov had several topic headlines flashing by. One pitched, as an upcoming event, the 2012 state centennial. Carpe ayer? Boxes in the middle posed questions. “Are you a visitor? Are you a business? And, best of all, “Are you a citizen?” offering a guide to living in New Mexico. Non-citizens don’t count, apparently.

  • Doctor shortage and federal policy

    Why is there such a serious shortage of doctors in New Mexico?
    A bit of good news: The basic cause is not anything inherently wrong with New Mexico. It’s tied up in the complications of medical regulations and funding.
    A group of speakers from New Mexico Health Resources Inc. recently described the background of this situation and what they are doing about it. NMHR is a nonprofit dedicated to recruiting and retaining physicians in New Mexico, especially underserved areas. The speakers were Jerry Richardson, executive director; Kevin McMullan, health professional recruiter; and Dr. Frank Hesse, a founder and former board member of NMHR who is also former chair of the now-moribund New Mexico Health Policy Commission.
    The undersupply of doctors nationwide, they said, traces to a federal commission called the Council on Graduate Medical Education. This commission was founded in the 1930s, when the nation had an oversupply of doctors. A quota was established for the number of medical residents. Today, the training of medical residents is largely subsidized by Medicare. The quota sets the number of residents in each teaching hospital that Medicare will support. It also sets the allocation among specialties.

  • State spurs job-saving development

    Roswell officials knew the city needed a new railroad spur if it hoped to save jobs in local industries dependent on rail shipping and to stimulate job creation in emerging industries. Occasional derailments underscored the risk of using the old Burlington Northern tracks, which didn’t meet the weight and gauge requirements of modern railroad cars.
    But building industrial infrastructure is expensive — more than the city, the railroad, or the rail-dependent businesses could afford on their own.
    So the city launched a public-private partnership to upgrade and modernize the rail spur in a way that benefits the entire community and allows more public access to the privately owned tracks.
    Empowered by New Mexico’s Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) and the availability of funds appropriated to the New Mexico Economic Development Department for the LEDA-Capital Outlay program, the city submitted an application requesting $100,000 for the project and matched that amount with city funds. It also engaged Xcel Energy and Southwestern Railroad to contribute $70,000 in labor to repair and expand the city’s tracks.
    The result is a modernized facility that city officials are confident will raise Roswell’s profile as a regional hub for rail shipping.

  • Transferring funds overseas just got safer

    If you’re among the millions of United States residents who each year send tens of billions of dollars to family, friends or foreign businesses overseas, here’s good news: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently instituted new rules governing international electronic money transfers to better protect consumers against hidden fees and improve dispute resolution policies.
    CFPB was given oversight over international money transfers as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Up until then, federal consumer protection rules did not apply to most “remittance transfers,” whose exchange rates, processing fees and taxes often vary widely and can be hard to decipher.
    Here’s an overview of the new remittance transfer rules:
    In general, most foreign money transfers for more than $15 sent by money transmitters (like Western Union and MoneyGram), banks, credit unions and other financial services companies that consistently send more than 100 international money transfers annually are covered.

  • Incredible 31 percent of N.M. budget derived from oil, gas

    Thanks to the show “Breaking Bad,” many Americans now realize that they don’t need passports to visit New Mexico. We surely appreciate the publicity. But New Mexicans have reason to be even more grateful to another industry.
    The New Mexico Tax Research Institute (NMTRI) recently released the study, “Fiscal Impacts of Oil and Natural Gas Production in New Mexico.” It’s impressively researched, including detailed county-level analyses. The results show that absent the tremendous financial impact of the oil and gas industries, New Mexico would be a far different, poorer state.
    NMTRI found that 31.5 percent of the state’s General Fund revenues — the primary source of funding for state public schools and higher education — come from taxes paid by the oil and natural gas industries. The General Fund also pays for state public welfare programs, environmental protection, tourism advertising and support, road construction and maintenance, and many other functions of state government.

  • Moving needle, leveling playing field

    As I write this, House members were still nose-to-nose, haggling over the budget, and the Senate had begun the process. How is it, you might ask, that the two parties are stalled on what amounts to 1 or 2 percent of the total budget?
    The education arguments by now look like deep ruts in a dirt road, the kind that wheels and water keep following because it’s difficult to do anything else. We’ve heard them in countless meetings, newspaper commentary, and legislative hearings. So I wasn’t expecting the House floor debate to be much different, and yet there were some points made that bear repeating.
    House Minority Leader Don Bratton, R-Hobbs, reminded everyone that the state’s financial underpinnings are oil and gas, but hanging our hats on oil prices is precarious because the horizontal drilling and fracking that increased production here have increased production everywhere else. Supply and demand could tilt prices against us.
    Employment growth in the state is inching along at 1 or 2 percent, so increasing the budget 4.8 percent doesn’t seem prudent to him.
    Worthy arguments.

  • Education presentation offers obscure ideas

    This is one of those words-mean-something columns, to wit, some words used in political and public policy conversations are code for policy prescriptions.
    At the start of a recent presentation about education to the Albuquerque Press Women, cautionary bells rang when, under the headline, “liberal egalitarianism,” I heard, “Grave inequalities keep people from being meaningfully free to choose for themselves. Fairness and justice require a safety net with a livable minimum of housing, income, food, education, healthcare and equal opportunity.”
    Under “free market libertarianism,” I heard some more appealing points. “Free people should choose for themselves. People are responsible for their own actions and their consequences. Redistribution of income or wealth is unfair, and creates disincentives for hard work.”
    The libertarianism-egalitarianism nuggets were offered to define the political dialogue.
    While “fairness and justice” live as technical jargon in the identity politics of the left, the notion of “being meaningfully free” is obscure. I don’t remember the phrase, have no idea what it means, and suspect rampant agendas.

  • The politics of child abuse

    If any one person deserves credit for the creation of New Mexico’s Department of Children, Youth and Families it must surely be Alice King, wife of the state’s longest serving (12 years) governor, Bruce King.
    Alice and Bruce King are now deceased, and more’s the pity.
    But during their three (non-consecutive) terms in Santa Fe it was widely understood that the governor not only cherished his wife, he trusted her judgment and valued her counsel.
    In the early years Mrs. King publicly feigned to be little more than the traditional “First Lady” — wife, mother, help-mate.
    One year into Bruce King’s final term as governor, however, Alice King came into her own by putting her experience and political savvy to the task of consolidating various programs critical to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children and young people that, despite good intentions, frequently languished throughout the far-flung agencies of state government.
    In 1992, that consolidation became the single, cabinet-level department we know today as Children, Youth and Families, CYFD, focused on issues central of New Mexico life.

  • Ways to protect a pet's dental health

     

  • E Pluribus Multi Stulti

     

    In  the United States Constitution, the Founding Fathers took great care with the inclusion and exclusion of various topics. Many aspects of what defines America are explicitly enumerated.

    And many other aspects were purposely avoided. For instance, they made no effort whatsoever to define a national language.

    Standing on avant-garde political terra firma of the times, these colonial guerrillas forged a joie de vivre mentality that gave birth to a nation. The omission of declaring a national language was, de facto, evidence of their compos mentis and a sense of Realpolitik.

    Then again, maybe this exclusion was per se, a faux pas?