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Columns

  • New Mexico gets a D, but not an F

    Michelle Rhee got the Public Broadcasting “Frontline” treatment a couple of weeks ago. Cameras followed Rhee during the three years (2007 to 2010) she was chancellor of the Washington D.C. public schools.
    PBS was sympathetic to Rhee, an interesting notion, given that in D.C. Rhee took names and, gasp, fired people, and PBS is a bastion of liberal media that one ordinarily would think is entirely a creature of the unions controlling schools.
    Rhee now runs the nonprofit StudentsFirst (studentsfirst.org). On the website, the organization says its “mission is to build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform, so that America has the best education system in the world.”
    On Jan. 7, the day before the “Frontline” broadcast, StudentsFirst released its first “State of Education State Policy Report” (reportcard.studentsfirst.org).
    In the letter grade evaluations, New Mexico got a D, no real surprise there.
    The surprises are not getting an F and being in about the middle of the more detailed rankings. Further surprise is no state getting an A and only Louisiana and Florida getting a B.
    Rhee grades on a tough curve.

  • Papen’s effect on governor, if elected

    The New Mexico Senate is being run by still another coalition. What causes such a thing to happen?
    And how will this coalition work out? Will it provide Gov. Susana Martinez an easier pathway for her prized legislation? Will it make the governor’s 2014 reelection easier?
    The new Senate president pro tem is Sen. Mary Kay Papen. She is from Las Cruces, as is our governor.
    Papen said they are longtime acquaintances and although they have had their differences, they never have been adversarial.
    Papen describes herself as a fiscal conservative but a social moderate. She is a strong supporter of Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming, a fiscal conservative who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
    The New Mexico Legislature is not unfamiliar with cross-party coalitions running either the House or the Senate.
    Back in the late 1970s, a group of disenchanted Democrats joined with Republicans, who were the minority party, to form a coalition headed by a Democrat but run by Republicans.
    It was called the Cowboy Coalition because most of the Democrats were from the southern part of the state.
    The atmosphere was not pleasant.
    In the mid-1980s, Republicans in the Senate managed the same sort of coup, headed by Sen. Les Houston, a Democrat turned Republican.

  • State of the state is hemorrhaging

    Last week Gov. Susana Martinez delivered her third State of the State address since taking office on Jan. 1, 2011. It was, almost certainly, a public relations success.
    The governor was poised, smiling and gracious as she outlined her ambitions for the 2013 legislative session.
    It helped too that she surrounded herself with a bevy of smiling and poised youngsters and veterans and notables who composed an attractive picture.
    And to hear the governor tell it, “The state of our state is getting stronger.”
    Whereupon almost anyone who has been paying even slight attention to the situation in this enchanted land must surely have started scratching his or her head in disbelief.
    The fact is that in the months leading up to the current 60-day gathering of state lawmakers in Santa Fe, virtually all recent studies into the state of New Mexico’s economy have been disappointing, if not downright depressing.
    Early in January one such study, commissioned by the Santa Fe New Mexican, found New Mexico to be “dead last” among the 50 states in job growth between Jan. 1, 2010 and this past October, 2012.
    Indeed, data examined in this study indicated that New Mexico is one of only “two states still showing negative jobs growth” in the 14-month period examined.

  • It’s all in the name

     I remember as a child how my parents told me that my name John, translated as “The gods are great.” Or glamorous. Or graceful or gassy.
    Something like that.
     I found it amusing that my name would mean something other than just John and I never did know what language it was supposed to be.
    With all the Johns in my school, it might have been “The gods are generous.” Very generous. I mean, every Tom, Dick and Harry was named John.
    But what is in a name? Kabalarians profess that the alphabet has mathematical properties and that the letters in your name will determine your personality.
    Your name defines who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, your mental and physical being. 
    Your success in life and your entire destiny totally depends on your name.
    I once considered changing my name to Zortanbezzobog the Exalted High Wizard of Thunder, hoping that I’d get more respect from my friends. It didn’t work, so I decided to stay with John.
    Okay, so yeah, the Kabalarians are mondo wackos. But placing importance on one’s name is far more commonplace than you might think.

  • Deduction lifts gross receipts tax burden for businesses

    New Mexico’s gross receipts tax might make many business owners grumble, but the tax code contains provisions to help entrepreneurs compete with out-of-state rivals who aren’t subject to the tax.
    Taxpayers that sell services to out-of-state buyers when the product of the service is initially used outside the state and the product is delivered to the buyer outside New Mexico may be eligible for a deduction.
    For transactions to be deductible, certain guidelines must be met.
    Out of state buyer: An out-of-state buyer has no offices or places of business in New Mexico. If the buyer is an individual, he is not a resident of New Mexico.
    Product of the service: For an architect, the product of the service is the building plan she prepares. For a writer, it is the manuscript. The product of a service may be intangible, such as when a psychiatrist treats a patient, but it’s described as the benefit received by the buyer from the performance of the service.
    Delivery outside New Mexico: An out-of-state buyer receives the product of a service where he or his agent or employee accepts the product. An investment adviser, for example, delivers the product of her service when she telephones her client outside of New Mexico or e-mails advice to her out-of-state client at an out-of-state location.

  • A brief history of fumbles and foibles

    Talk of the economy and economic development, as the legislative session gets rolling, makes me think there’s a finger on the playback button. I could dust off old stories and columns and they would sound fresh.
    In fact, I will. Here’s my own playback.
    1986: New Mexicans studying economic development have produced piles of reports, “usually without any concrete plan for moving from point A to point B.”
    Business people told me that year, “Probably the best thing the state could do is create a stable, non-political climate in areas that matter — taxes, education and public services.” They blamed the Legislature for allowing the University of New Mexico to decline and blasted its lack of commitment to higher education.
    Said one CEO, “The continuing problems that we have in coming to grips with the kind of university and educational system we want is noticed by others. The state doesn’t seem to have it together.”
    1987: “We need to radicalize our business climate,” said up-and-coming economic developer Mark Lautman. “We need to do everything possible to make ourselves better than Texas.”

  • Dental therapists could help solve care issues

    As a practicing dentist in Fort Sumner, I see patients from just about everywhere in New Mexico: Santa Rosa, Roswell, Vaughn — and even from Albuquerque and some of the Texas border towns.
    Many of these folks drive several hours each way to get dental care at our clinic. Some come simply because they know me.
    Others make the trip because our clinic uses a sliding payment scale based on income and we don’t turn anyone away.
    A high percentage of my patients’ needs are extractions. That’s because a lot of the patients I see don’t have access to preventive and routine dental care. They are poor, often without health insurance, and from remote areas where dental care is hard to get.
    Across New Mexico, many people struggle to get dental care. Less than half of children from poor families see a dentist. Yet poor oral health at this stage in their lives can adversely affect their learning, social development and overall health for a lifetime.
    It doesn’t have to be this way. We could bring high-quality, affordable dental care to more people by creating a new kind of mid-level practitioner called a dental therapist. Many dentists don’t like this idea and I understand, because I was one of them.

  • A cool business climate

    In the bottom center of the map lies New Mexico, a light orange blip in a sea of blue. Our distinctiveness bodes ill. The map shows state business climates based on a survey of 650 business leaders by Chief Executive Magazine.
    Our light orange places us between two deep blue states, Texas and Arizona, respectively first and 10th in the survey. We rank 33rd in the 2012 survey. See chiefexecutive.net/best-worst-states-for-business-2012. On the map, New Mexico gains attention in a subtle way. We are one of two states between the left (er, west) coast and the Mississippi River to place below 31st in the CEO estimation. Minnesota is the other.
    The magazine survey, being a survey of people, however informed and thoughtful, remains just a survey, short on data. The Brookings Institution and the CNBC Top States for Business report fill the gap.
    Though Brookings only considers Albuquerque, the use of location quotients offers statewide insight, given that Albuquerque plus Santa Fe are half the state. Location quotients compare the given area’s concentration of employment in an industry to the national average.

  • NMSU harnesses intellectual capital

    Entrepreneurs don’t have to live in or near Las Cruces to take advantage of the many services offered by Arrowhead Center — a business development hub launched in 2004 by New Mexico State University to stimulate economic development for the betterment of all New Mexicans.
    The center’s resources are open to any state resident who needs help turning an idea into a commercial venture or taking an existing business to the next stage.
    The Enterprise Research service draws on students, business mentors, entrepreneurs, faculty researchers and research partners to create and validate research studies for startups and existing businesses.
    And the Arrowhead Technology Incubator links technology-based firms with the resources they need.
    Enterprise Research
    Arrowhead Center accepts applications three times a year from businesses that need help analyzing the commercial potential of new technologies and products, formalizing business plans to attract investors and identifying resources for startups.
    Student innovation teams help write business plans, test technologies, research market potential and explore licensing opportunities with potential investors.

  • The future of health care mandates

    The future of health care — or at least how we pay for it — is confusing, to say the least. One question is what happens to state authority under the Obamacare law.
    New Mexico contains quite a few mandates — services insurance companies are required to cover.
    For example, some years ago a prospective adoptive parent found that state regulations required health insurance for the adopted child, but insurance companies weren’t covering adopted children.
    A legislator was asked for help, and a law was enacted to require that coverage. Hence, a mandate.
    Current law mandates coverage for mammograms, colorectal screenings and a whole list of other treatments.
    Some of them are quite narrowly written — a specific treatment for a specific cancer, for example.
    Heartbreaking stories may lie behind some of these provisions — a badly needed treatment denied, a call to a legislator and a new mandate written into law.
    Whether mandates add to the cost of insurance can be argued. One side says people should pay for their own routine preventive screenings.
    The opposing argument says screenings catch serious health conditions early, saving money because early treatment is so much more cost-effective.