• Capital spending priorities backward

    For the state’s capital spending to hit the headlines in mid-year is unusual. But then headlines sometimes result from the work of the Legislative Finance Committee, which does oversight and builds a budget providing the Legislature an alternative to the Governor’s budget.
    Much of the LFC’s oversight work is nuts-and-bolts stuff, both needed and boring to most.
    However the report released June 12 at the LFC’s meeting in Las Cruces got attention. The title: Review of Selected Capital Outlay Projects’ Planning, Spending and Outcomes: Public Prisons. The short version is that $277 million is the estimated cost of repairing the state’s prison system. The number drew the media, as well it should.
    Capital spending authorized by the 2014 legislature will come to $714.2 million, assuming all the authorized projects get done, which never happens. House Bill 55, one of two major capital spending bills, authorizes $228.7 million for 852 projects including $2.4 million for four projects at corrections facilities.
    In her executive message to the Legislature, an eight-page letter to House Speaker Ken Martinez, Gov. Susana Martinez listed 73 separate line-item vetoes. The vetoes hit groups of lines, single lines, parts of lines and punctuation. It was not a good year for semicolons.

  • Duck and cover: It's the police

    What? Albuquerque ranks 360th among some 369 U.S. metropolitan areas surveyed as potential places to set up businesses?
    That tidbit of news appeared in local papers a couple of weeks after I had written a column suggesting that our state’s politicos should get their acts together and basically declare war on the dead-last, bottom-of-the barrel status New Mexico routinely garners in all those rating systems that measure the economic well-being of America’s states and cities.
    On the other hand, when a state’s largest city gets the reputation as a place to duck and cover when someone calls the police, you have to wonder about the local social and business atmospherics.
    It made headlines coast to coast when, after an almost year and a-half investigation, the U.S. Justice Department issued a report bluntly stating, among other things, that Albuquerque police officers have routinely “used deadly force against people who posed a minimal threat, including individuals who posed a threat only to themselves or who were unarmed…”
    Worse, the report went on to say, “Officers also used deadly force in situations where the conduct of the officers heightened the danger and contributed to the need to use force.”

  • Class of 2014 picnic a success

    On behalf of the Class of 2014, we would like to thank everyone who helped to make the Senior Picnic a huge success, including the parents who not only donated food items but also their time and grilling expertise. 
    Speaking of grilling, thank you to Dr. Gene Schmidt, superintendent, and Mr. Gerry Washburn, assistant superintendent, for taking a turn flipping hamburgers and hot dogs.
    A thank you also goes out to Valynn Purvis, of Party to Go and her staff for supplying the bounce house and dunk tank, as well as to the Los Alamos Animal Shelter for letting members of the senior class meet Texas and Baby.
    The weather was great and everyone had a great time celebrating the end of a four-year journey.
    Connie Goettee
    Stephanie Pittman
    Class of 2014 co-sponsors 

  • The lowest of the low

    It’s a dog’s world. That means dogs rule, people drool. Dogs know how to have fun in almost any situation, whereas people work hard to find fault with anything and everything.
    And people can manufacture nightmares in this dog’s world that would keep Freddy Krueger awake. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would purposely hurt a dog.
    But some people treat dogs like garbage, abusing and tossing them aside with no more thought than one would have for a discarded piece of trash.
    As a shining example of what people value in our society, consider the mound of yak upchuck who goes by the name Michael Vick.
    In a recent interview, Vick (currently a $5 million a year NFL quarterback for the New York Jets) bragged that he could help any team get to the Super Bowl.
    I don’t know if anyone explained to this sadistic cretin, but they don’t torture dogs at the Super Bowl. His talents would be severely wasted.
    Vick personifies the absolute worst in human DNA, the ability of people to place human pleasure above everything else. After serving 18 months in a plush jail, he was quickly put back onto the playing field for the Philadelphia Eagles, making tens of millions of dollars. Despite the pleasure and profit he took in torturing dogs for entertainment, his fans continued to praise him.

  • PMI expansion in Española will create 50 new jobs

    ESPAÑOLA — Eric Quintana, founder of Performance Maintenance, Inc. (PMI), is putting down roots for his growing business with a new expansion in Española. Since launching PMI with his wife Celina from their home in 1994, the company now boasts more than 80 employees in two states.
    Governor Susana Martinez and New Mexico Economic Development Department (EDD) Cabinet Secretary Jon Barela were the honored guests of the Regional Development Corporation (RDC), also based in Española, who hosted a public groundbreaking at the site (835 N. Paseo del Oñate, Española) on June 17. The groundbreaking ushered in the next phase for PMI, which will create up to 50 new jobs.
    Immediately following the groundbreaking at PMI’s new site, the governor and cabinet secretary cut the ribbon at another new Española business — Blue Heron Brewing just opened a new taproom located at 100 Los Alamos Highway.
    “I could not be happier with the news of the expansion of both PMI and Blue Heron Brewing Company in Española in northern New Mexico,” Gov. Martinez said. “Small, local businesses like these are exactly the kind of enterprises we want to help grow. When they succeed, our families and communities succeed.”

  • Make sure your family has a disaster plan

    June 1 marked the beginning of hurricane season. Meanwhile, across much of the Western United States major droughts have greatly increased the danger for summer wildfires. And don’t forget last winter’s record-breaking winter storms — or the ongoing potential for earthquakes, tornados, floods and other natural disasters.
    Such catastrophic events are inevitable, largely unpreventable and often strike without warning. Even though we can’t always predict natural disasters, we can anticipate their likely aftermaths, including property loss, power or water service disruption and scarcity of food and supplies.
    Sit down with your family and develop a disaster plan. By planning ahead and knowing what you might need under dire circumstances, you can save yourselves a lot of time, money and grief.
    FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (fema.gov), offers great suggestions for developing a family emergency plan, building an emergency supply kit, and learning what to do before, during and after emergencies, everything from home fires to terrorist attacks. They even provide an emergency plan for family pets.
    Here are some emergency-planning ideas you may not have considered:
    • Pick meeting spots both in and outside your neighborhood where your family can gather after an emergency.

  • New insurance requirements lead to more questions

    It’s four months into the new health insurance plan year, and if provider experiences are any indication, that hasn’t been enough time for people to figure out exactly what “high deductible” — especially as it relates to Los Alamos National Laboratory’s new insurance offerings — means.
    As defined by the healthcare.gov glossary, “deductible” is “The amount you owe for health care services your health insurance or plan covers before your health insurance or plan begins to pay.
    For example, if your deductible is $1,000, your plan won’t pay anything until you’ve met your $1,000 deductible for covered health care services subject to the deductible. The deductible may not apply to all services.”
    The glossary further defines “High Deductible Health Plan” as “a plan that features higher deductibles than traditional insurance plans. High deductible health plans (HDHPs) can be combined with a health savings account, or a health reimbursement arrangement to allow you to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses on a pre-tax basis.”

  • Lieutenant governor could be a factor in the race

    About a week before the primary election, all five Democratic contenders for governor co-hosted a fundraising event in honor of lieutenant governor nominee Debra Haaland, who was unopposed in the primary. Three of the candidates, including winner Gary King, were there in person; the others sent delegates. The theme was unity — agreeing before the primary that the losing candidates will unite behind the winner, and whoever wins will be happy to have Haaland as a running mate.
    I have been looking for signs that the race for governor could be a fair fight. This is one.
    Haaland will be a positive addition to the ticket. First, she’s Native American. She’s a member of Laguna Pueblo, and she works as tribal administrator of San Felipe Pueblo. Her ethnicity brings an element that’s new in a statewide race. Her presence can be expected to bring the Native American vote to the Democratic ticket. Perhaps she will attract Native American money. Maybe. At the unity event, speakers claimed she’s the first Native American nationally to run on a gubernatorial ticket.
    Second, she’s an attractive candidate — graceful, personable, articulate and well spoken. She has a law degree from the University of New Mexico and a résumé that mixes private sector, tribal administration and political advocacy.

  • Education, health, hospitals and human services get 84 percent of state spending

    “Follow the money,” is the advice. Wander around the top levels of the state’s general appropriations act and you find people are the focus of state government. What the Legislative Finance Committee calls “recurring general fund appropriations,” the product of this year’s legislative session, is $6.16 billion for the budget year starting July 1, which is called Fiscal Year 15 or FY 15.
    Our state government does people: kids through high school in the public schools, young adults (mostly) in colleges, and everyone with an emphasis on children in the broad array covered by health, hospitals and human services.
    The numbers from the LFC’s “2014 Post-Session Review” show education (public schools, higher and other) with a $3.5 billion appropriation, or 58 percent of the general appropriation. The health function will get $1.6 billion. The combined percentage is 84 percent. The leftover 16 percent includes important functions, such as public safety ($393.9 million) and judicial ($218.6 million).
    Transportation,­ as with the Department of Transportation, is the biggest function outside the general fund.

  • What do we need to do to win Tesla?

    New Mexico lost 4,400 jobs from April 2013 through April 2014. We’re last in job growth.
    So along comes Tesla Motors, dangling 6,000 jobs at its battery gigafactory like a canteen before a traveler lost in the desert. And New Mexico made the final cut!
    We’re in the final four, with Arizona, Texas and Nevada. The governor attributes this to the bipartisan tax package passed last year. That’s not the whole story, but it’s a factor. Should Tesla smile on us, whiners on the right and the left will have to eat their words.
    California is also fighting to be considered by moving legislation that would streamline regulation and permitting and offer incentives.
    Looking at California’s hustle, two Democratic state senators last week blasted the governor for a perceived lack of action and for excluding the Legislature from discussions. The governor responded that a special session now would be a “political stunt.”
    It’s an election year, so everything’s debatable, but our elected leaders have danced to and fro about what we ought to be doing for Tesla.