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Columns

  • 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.

  • We need smaller shoes

     Early last year, the US military announced it was withdrawing 11,000 troops from Germany and Italy, as part of its strategic shift to annoying people in Afghanistan rather than in Europe.
    This was euphemistically referred to as “downsizing our European footprint.”  European footprint.  That kind of sounds like the impression one makes with an overpriced ugly shoe, doesn’t it?
    And perhaps that makes it the perfect metaphor to discuss America’s military presence in countries around the world.  It’s a big footprint.  
    Our military feet are jammed in the doors of over 150 countries around the world.  Nearly 200,000 American troops “police” the world outside US territories.  This does not even include the huge numbers serving in embassies or those aboard naval ships.
    More than 100,000 of those personnel are stationed in Germany, Japan, and South Korea.  WWII ended nearly 70 years ago, yet we still live in the past, patrolling those evil nations out there who might otherwise wreak havoc on the democratic stability instilled by our military presence.

  • Mary Kay Papen is the best choice for Senate Pro Tem

    During the last legislative session, a female scribe in the press gallery asked me, “Have you ever noticed that the women say what they need to say and sit down, and the men go on and on?”
    I had noticed.
    Now, this isn’t true of all legislators. There are a few long-winded women and some men who measure their words. Both chambers have too many lawyers (male) who never tire of exercising their vocal chords, even though everybody else tires of exercising their ear drums.
    When the session convenes this week, the Senate will have just six women, the smallest number in a decade, because some bowed out and others lost their races.
    The House gained six women, for a total of 25. So if the initial observation holds, House speeches should be shorter and more to the point.
    The usual argument about having more women is that many of the issues affect us more, but I argue that women do things differently. We’re inclined to be more collaborative and less competitive.
    A businessman once told me that he preferred to hire women. “They’re more loyal,” he said. “Guys are always working deals on the side.”
    Other men told me they’d become avid fans of UNM’s Lady Lobo basketball players “because they really play as a team.”