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Columns

  • Funny business at NMFA

     Ten members of the 11-member New Mexico Finance Authority board are appointed by the governor. Four of them are members of Gov. Susana Martinez’s own cabinet. The Authority’s CEO, Rick May, served in her cabinet until assuming his NMFA post nearly a year ago.
     So you might think the Martinez administration would have had its ducks in a row last week, when NMFA board members met, not once but twice, to deal with evidence that a former agency controller had fraudulently concocted the 2011 financial reports of the Finance Authority, which loans millions of dollars to state entities and schools for capital equipment and infrastructure.

  • Should there be limits to our freedoms?

    SANTA FE — Early this month, we celebrated the many freedoms Americans enjoy. Some recent events have indicated those freedoms have some limitations ­– but not enough in some people’s minds.
    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this month that freedom of speech has fewer limitations than perhaps many Americans intended. In the case of Alvarez v. United States, brought under the 2005 Stolen Valor Act, the justices found that simply lying about one’s military awards is not a criminal act.

  • Let’s check the alternatives

    My dog needed surgery last month, and the veterinary office handed me an estimate of charges. Try asking for an estimate from a doctor or hospital. It won’t happen. Their attitude and ours seem to be, it costs what it costs. And we all know they will sock the insurance company, so we don’t care.
    Because our health-care system relies on socking the insurance company, insurers and health plans have come up with their own ways of socking us back – denied claims, bigger co-pays, cancelled coverage if you’re too sick, denied coverage if you have a pre-existing condition, and capped lifetime payout.

  • How business is really created

    Hey, business people, President Obama says you didn’t do it. Especially those of you who think you have created, led and built small businesses. You didn’t do it. The government did. Never mind that you and your staff pay the taxes.
    Here’s the statement, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” That’s what President Obama told a Roanoke, Va., group at a campaign event July 13.
    I believe that with this remark, the President opened a window into his soul, into his deepest convictions.

  • Employers risk penalties

    Under competitive pressures, some employers are tempted to label workers “independent contractors” rather than employees so they can avoid paying benefits, matching Social Security and Medicare taxes, paying federal and state unemployment taxes and following employment laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act.
    This practice of misclassification has created substantial problems for affected employees and for the United States Treasury, the Social Security and Medicare funds, and state unemployment and workers’ compensation funds.

  • An enlightening experience

    SANTA FE — Having trouble figuring which presidential candidate to vote for? Pollsters tell us more people than ever are expected to stay away from the voting booth this November. In many cases these are people who usually vote but are so turned off by the parties and their candidates that they don’t know what to do.
    One solution is a new website, created in March, called “I Side With.” The site asks a series of questions on the major issues of the campaign. You can answer yes or no or even qualify your answer.
    The site will then compare your answers with the stands of presidential candidates.
    They have tossed in a half-dozen minor party candidates too.

  • Dealing with your medical bills

    It’s no secret that health care costs have been spiraling out of control for years. To fight back, your best bet is to be a well-informed consumer: Know the true costs of medical procedures, supplies and medications so you can bargain effectively; carefully anticipate and track medical expenses; and stay on top of your bills.
    But sometimes, even when you follow the rules you still can get burned. I’ve heard many appalling stories about people – even those with comprehensive insurance – who have been denied benefits, over-charged, sent to collections or even forced to file for bankruptcy because they couldn’t pay their medical bills.
    Here are a few coping strategies:

  • Bring back the abacus

    It’s been a while since I’ve ranted about declining math skills in this country. Well yeah, OK, not really.
    My wife just told me to stop lying and admit that it’s been about 12 minutes.  That’s what I get for marrying a woman who can tell time!
    Los Alamos is joining the fray (or is that fracas?) among public schools across the nation and adopting a new assessment standard.  It’s called “Common Core State Standards (CCSS), an initiative to introduce consistency in educational processes.
    At this time, CCSS has been adopted by 45 states. Texas has not yet adopted the standards. My guess is that state officials are waiting to see if the standards will mandate the teaching of creationism in math classes.

  • Small business, deadbeat dads

    Government leaders keep telling us the engine of economic growth is small business.  They can’t wait to do more to encourage small business. Then they force small businesses to jump through hoops with complicated rules and paperwork.
    Here is what one small business owner told me:
    A few years ago, she learned she had to comply with a program called the New Hires Directory. She is required to file a report, within 20 days of hiring a new employee, giving the employee’s name, address and Social Security number.
    Immigration, you might be thinking. Nope, child support.

  • LFC starts tax conversation

    The Legislative Finance Committee went to Rio Rancho’s version of the end of the world to hear about taxes at its July meeting.
    The presentations by leading tax experts in the state were process, rather than offering exciting specifics worth turning into big headlines. Even so, committee members stayed awake. Sen. John Sapien, Corrales Democrat, was occupied with two computers, a Mac laptop and a tablet. Others had the magnificent view of the Sandia Mountains from the meeting room on the second floor of the new one-building University of New Mexico West.