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Columns

  • Licenses for illegal immigrants, plus shorter campaigns

    New Mexicans weary of the contretemps over illegal immigrants and drivers’ licenses, which has engulfed them since Susana Martinez hit the campaign trail back in 2010, were probably surprised to learn that a new law in Illinois permits immigrants without papers to apply for licenses in that state.
    So there are now four states that have such laws on their books: New Mexico, Utah, Washington and Illinois.
    Four states hardly a bandwagon makes, but with the almost decade-long blockade of anything smacking of immigration reform apparently coming to an end, a number of other states are also toying with the idea.
    California, with its huge illegal immigrant population, has long grappled with the problems of unlicensed drivers on its streets and roadways.
    Last month the Los Angeles Times reported on a recent study by the California Motor Vehicle Department that finds “Unlicensed drivers in California—the vast majority of whom are illegal immigrants—are nearly three times as likely to cause a fatal crash as licensed drivers.”
    Why?

  • Knowledge of state's economy is vague

    Mythology provides the thread throughout discussions of New Mexico’s economy.
    By recently telling an Albuquerque real estate group (and no doubt many others) that we must “commit to diversifying our economy,” Gov. Susana Martinez also says our economy is not diversified.
    Another common line is that the federal government share of our economy depends on the decisions of some bureaucrat, one bureaucrat, that is, in Washington.
    The fear mongering desired image is that this one bureaucrat, sufficiently annoyed, could at a stroke close everything federal in the state.
    Early in her most recent Senate campaign, Heather Wilson explained the real world to me. For better or worse, it is nearly impossible to eliminate a government activity.
    Every activity has a constituency, she said. If you try to eliminate something, that constituency and all of its friends and relations appear from the woodwork to protest and delay. Nearly always the constituency wins.
    Three sets of numbers provide a vague idea of the structure of our economy and of what is happening. Emphasis on “vague.”

  • The time for motor carrier deregulation has arrived

    The Rio Grande Foundation recently completed a report in which it analyzed dozens of state regulations that are holding back our economy and need to be eliminated or reformed. The need for deregulation has never been more apparent with our economy losing jobs and seeing an outflow of workers (according to a recent report from United Van Lines).
    Unlike many issues in Santa Fe, deregulation has not historically been a partisan issue. At the federal level, President Jimmy Carter deregulated trucking, freight rail, and airlines to positive effect in the 1970s. President Reagan continued those efforts in ways that led to significant economic growth throughout the 1980s.
    To further illustrate the point that deregulation can and should be bi-partisan, we are pleased to see that Think New Mexico has embraced the concept of deregulation, at least insofar as motor carriers here in New Mexico are concerned.
    Think New Mexico has been working to pass House Bill 194, legislation sponsored on a bi-partisan basis by Republican Rep. Tom Taylor and Democrat Rep. Carl Trujillo. The bill attempts to overcome many of the most absurd barriers to free competition in transportation services. These barriers harm both New Mexico’s economy and reduce options for consumers.

  • Voters to Santa Fe: Do something

    Standing in the back of the room, as Democratic lawmakers rolled out their jobs package, was a seasoned economic developer with many notches in his belt.
    I asked him what he thought of all the proposals we’ve heard so far. He said he doesn’t like to mix in politics, “but if we don’t do something quick, we’re screwed.”
    With those inspiring words, let’s look at the proposals.
    The governor and state Economic Development Department Secretary Jon Barela offer the New Century Jobs Agenda, which calls for a single sales factor (companies pay tax only on sales within the stat)e; reducing the corporate income tax from 7.6 percent to 4.9 percent; $10 million to help local governments pay for job-creating infrastructure; $4.75 million for the Job Training Incentive Program, which supports new employee training for qualified companies; a reformed capital outlay process; the Spaceport Informed Consent law; and more money for the MainStreet program.
    Democrats presented a three-point plan: public works, potential growth areas, and a Jobs Council.
    Most innovative is the Jobs Council, which would meet between sessions to develop a strategic plan. Everybody I’ve talked to likes this idea. When we bring up tax reform and other sticky issues, we need a forum to hammer out solutions.

  • GOP not dead yet

    SANTA FE – Is the GOP dead? Not on your life. Yes, demography and Barack Obama’s campaign machine are creeping up on Republicans. But before I get into the whys, I want to talk about the whats.
    Remember the aftermath of the 2008 elections? The Obama war machine, also called a ground game, swept many candidates into office. Democrat Harry Teague even won New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional district. Democrats had control of top state and national offices.
    There were so many Republican defeats just four years ago that many in my business were writing the party’s epilogue. There was no foreseeable way for Republicans to come back.
    Until six months later, that is. In the summer of 2009, Obama started talking about health care and everything turned around. And in the 2010 elections, Democrats lost heavily up and down the ballot.
    It was the perfect time for Republicans to win. They got to redesign state and national legislative and congressional districts. It has been said that had Republican legislators not have redesigned congressional districts; Democrats would have taken back control of the U.S. House in 2012.

  • The ethics of ridicule

     My mother was a short woman, under five feet tall, and weighted only 95 pounds when she got married.  In her late years, she had ballooned into what doctors call morbidly obese.  Her doctor said it wasn’t a medical problem.  She simply ate too much.
     Now, I loved my mother and so I decided to “help” her lose that weight.  I commissioned the construction of a 15’x30’ billboard across the street facing her house and had her pictures put on the billboard so that everyone driving by could see how fat she was.
     The billboard said, “Beep your horn to say hello to my mother, the big fat pig living in the house to your left!”
     She would walk outside and see the billboard and hear the people laughing at her.  She felt “shamed” and realized that she needed to lose all that weight.
     My strategy worked!  Mom shed all that embarrassing fat, trimmed down, got healthy, and lived out her remainder years as a slender “decent” person whom I was “willing” to be seen with.
     Go ahead.  Admit it.  I’m a great son, aren’t I?  I mean, is that love or what?

  • A moral tale for Groundhog Day

    Feb. 2, demarcates the point in the calendar halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox.
    In simpler times, (prior to anthropogenic green-house gases causing climate change with the resulting unpredictability of atmospheric conditions) on this day — Groundhog Day — it would be up to the groundhog to partner with his shadow to determine the weather for the next six weeks.
    Here in New Mexico, as many of you already know, we do not have groundhogs. Rather we have gophers. Los Alamos’ own rodent celebrity, the glow-in-the-dark gopher, Gus, will see his shadow.
    Actually, he always sees his shadow, so just because he turns around and goes back into his hole, doesn’t mean winter will come. After all, since he glows in the dark, his shadow is always with him— and not just a shadow, but a complete X-ray.

  • Conscious capitalism ideas open business minds

    John Mackey is a radical. But Mackey’s radicalism—what he calls “conscious capitalism”— lies far from what one might assume given that his day job is co-CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc., the upscale purveyor of organics that lures sandal-wearing Subaru drivers. Mackey’s journey has taken him from the 1978 opening of a tiny natural foods store in Austin, Texas, with Renee Lawson Hardy to 264th on the 2012 Fortune 500 list.
    Along the way, Mackey developed a roughly libertarian philosophy—more than that, really, an ethos—with room for espousing ideas such as capitalism, natural foods and animal rights. And, yes, in case you are wondering, Mackey did donate to the Libertarian Party presidential campaign of former Gov. Gary Johnson. According to washingtonexaminer.com, Mackey gave $5,000.
    Mackey’s conscious capitalism has turned into an organization, Conscious Capitalism Inc. (consciouscapitalism.org) and a new book, “Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business,” written with a professor, Raj Sisodia. I will leave you to learn more at the website.

  • How to avoid tax refund identity fraud

    Many people file their income tax returns as early in the year as possible. Some are eager to claim their tax refund right away, while others are simply following their New Year’s resolution not to procrastinate until midnight, April 15.
    Let me add another good reason to file your taxes right away: tax refund identity fraud.
    That’s where someone uses your Social Security number (SSN), birth date and other private information to file a fraudulent income tax return in your name and then pockets the resulting tax refund.
    Often, a victim’s first clue is a letter from the IRS contesting their legitimate tax return, saying one has already been processed under that name. It can take months — and mounds of paperwork — to unravel the mess.
    This scam has proliferated in recent years thanks to a confluence of events:
    There’s a thriving black market in personal information stolen from healthcare facilities, nursing homes, schools, insurance companies and other institutions that require an SSN as identification.

  • Udall makes his mark on Washington

    SANTA FE – What happened to the big filibuster reform New Mexico’s U.S. Sen. Tom Udall was going to introduce on the first day of this session of Congress?
    We were told that the motion had to be acted on during the first day of a congressional session when changes to a chamber’s operating rules are in order and can be changed by majority vote rather than the 60 percent vote so often required these days.
    The answer is that Udall got his rule change introduced with 14 cosponsors, including New Mexico’s new senator, Martin Heinrich. The rules change awaited action for three weeks because the legislative day never changed.
    How could that be? Congress and many state legislatures have rules requiring a waiting period between certain actions on bills. But sometimes they want to rush a bill through so they save some legislative days early in a session.
    Legislative days in New Mexico begin and end at noon – theoretically. In actuality, they begin and end when the speaker of the House or majority floor leader of the Senate deems it convenient for moving bills along. It is called “rolling the clock.”
    The majority leader of the chamber will rise and say, “It now being 11:59 of the 1st legislative day, I move we adjourn until 12:01 of the 2nd legislative day.