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Today's Opinions

  • Real ID is a tough standard for some

    New Mexico is finally complying with the federal standard for Real ID.
    Real ID is the new form of driver’s license (or ID card for non-drivers) that will be required beginning in 2020 to board a plane and for other federal purposes. Real ID confirms that you are genuinely you to the satisfaction of the federal government. When you next renew your license, or no later than October 2020, to get a Real ID license, you will have to present several documents to the Motor Vehicle Department.
    New Mexico’s Legislature delayed several years before adopting this standard. After studying the requirements, I see why. Pulling together the necessary documents will probably be easy for most homeowners. It will be hard for some low-income people, especially those who don’t have a stable address.
    The details are on the MVD website at mvd.newmexico.gov/real-id-information.aspx.
    You’ll have to present three types of documents: one with your Social Security number, one that identifies you by age, and two that establish proof of residence.

  • Less pay means less tax everywhere

    Like Chicken Man, taxes are everywhere – they’re everywhere.
    We forget that. The latest gross receipts tax increase quickly recedes into the background. When economic life is good, as it was when oil and gas drilling boomed for a few years until mid-2014, we forget recent history. Yet when history reappears and life for state government revenue reverts, life is just awful.
    The links are easily lost. Cities and counties get a lot of their revenue from gross receipts taxes. Local tax increases are one reaction. Eleven governments across the state hiked gross receipts rates as of January 1. Those basic local services are necessary. Gov. Susana Martinez may say no tax increases. Tuition increases at universities are doing the job for her.
    Last month the Taxation and Revenue Department (TRD) summarized the sad situation for seven of the state’s largest income categories. The 19-page paper, presented Dec. 5 to the Legislative Finance Committee, got into some of the matters seldom considered except by those paid to pay attention. The reminder is useful as we approach the 60-day legislative session with a chance of comprehensive tax reform.

  • GOP was right about ethics office

    The Wall Street Journal on Congress’ ethics reform controversy:

    The 115th Congress flopped into Washington on Tuesday with House Republicans proposing and then dropping marginal changes to an internal ethics office. The reversal is an unforced political error, but the GOP is right that the investigative body has the power to destroy reputations without due process.
    By the way, Paul Ryan was re-elected Speaker Tuesday with one GOP defection, while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lost four Democrats. But that news was dwarfed as the House considered rules for the new Congress, and Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte offered an amendment to restructure the Office of Congressional Ethics.
    The office is composed of political grandees, often former Members, and it has no prosecutorial power. But it conducts investigations into Members or staffers and makes recommendations to the House Ethics Committee. The proposal limited what information can be released to the public and barred the committee from having a press secretary. Also banned: anonymous tips.

  • Assets in Action: Award nominations were best ever

    Happy New Year!
    I think a fresh start is something needed by so many people and start with a positive outlook.
    I am elated to say that the nominations for the Community Asset Awards was the best since the event started years ago. We have more nominations for youth and higher totals than we have ever.
    C’YA, the LANL Foundation and the LACDC will look forward to the Jan. 21 event and I believe almost all of the notifications have taken place…with the exception of a few people needing to return to work to find out. Truth be told, there was one person nominated with just a first name and an address,
    We have individuals, couples, clubs, businesses and our youngest is a fifth-grader.  Remember this is a project that is open year long, so once we hold the event in January, the nomination process will begin again.
    I have heard a number of people saying they won’t be making any resolutions this year, what’s the point?
    I say, there’s always something you can do to be better or make the world better and often you can do such small things that make a big different.
    My first hope is for folks to join the Assets movement! This isn’t just some neat, fun idea of mine, this is based on decades of research, shown to improve so many areas of life for young people.

  • The whole truth requires assembly

    A witness hired by New Mexico oil and gas interests steps before the hearing officials with his written testimony. The court reporter greets him with these antique words: “Raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” He solemnly swears he will indeed. 
    Forms of this terse ceremony have been in use since Roman times and today’s forms are still recited countless times each day in venues looking for the truth. The phrases race by so fast that their mandates are fuzzy. 
    Think a moment on that middle phrase – to tell “the whole truth.”
    What do the words intend? The whole truth extends very far and is hard to know. No one can know everything.
    Since they cannot know everything, people tend to fill in what they do not really know with guesses, hopes and rumblings. What most people bring to the table are some pieces that mostly help one side.
    The court system knows the ways of people. So courts assemble the “whole” truth out of parts gathered by questioning a range of relevant people about what each of them knows. Firm questioning works to separate what is truly known from guesses, feelings and rumblings.  

  • Lessons to learn from Johnson administration

    In the early days of Gary Johnson’s governorship, I had occasion to be at the State Capitol talking with some of his new appointees.
    “Oh,” one of them said to me, “so you work for the Department of Labor.” He looked pleased with himself.
    “No,” I said. “I work for the Workers’ Compensation Administration.”
    “Right,” he said, “Department of Labor.”
    “No,” I said, but he didn’t believe me.
    Several similar conversations happened with other appointees of the new administration.
    A few weeks later, I saw taped to a wall in the Capitol an organization chart of state government, showing a dotted line between the Department of Labor and my agency. We had at one time been “administratively attached” to that department. But we had never been part of it.
    The chart was several years out of date. This new gang of managers were relying on it as reference information to learn what they were now in charge of.

  • How to turn monetary gifts into teachable moments

    BY NATHANIEL SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • ‘Don’t-cut-me’ emails don’t help as state revenues plunge

    “Not very good,” said David Abbey, describing the state’s economy. He switched to “bad” for further descriptions of matters such as job (non)growth. 

    Abbey, executive director of the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), was in his traditional program start slot at the annual legislative outlook conference of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute. It was five days before Christmas. 

    Not that the state’s situation was good last summer, but things deteriorated between the August consensus forecast and December. The August forecast was 1.7 percent job growth during the current budget year, FY 17, that ends June 30, 2017. Zero was the December job growth forecast. The December forecast for wage and salary growth was 0.7 percent, a quarter of the August estimate. Gross state product growth now figures at 40 percent of the August forecast.