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Today's Opinions

  • Big bipartisan HB 412 seeks fix for gross receipts tax mess

    House Bill 412 is a big one. The title requires 307 words. It begins, “An act relating to taxation…” The second to the last section – that’s section 155 out of 157– requires 1,028 words to list the sections of existing law that would be repealed.
    The sponsors are Rep. Jason Harper, Rio Rancho Republican, and two venerable Democratic senators, John Arthur Smith of Deming and Carlos Cisneros of Questa. Bipartisanship!
    The bill came from the interim Revenue Stabilization & Tax Policy Committee. Harper was the chair and Cisneros the vice chair. Smith was a member.
    A general and understandable (by you and me) summary of what became HB 412 is found in the minutes of the committee’s final meeting, held Dec. 16. It said: “The elimination of most GRT deductions, exemptions and credits is a key part of the legislation and could vastly expand the tax base with a correspondingly lower sales tax rate…  the state sales tax rate would be around 2.5 percent, with an average total local and state rate of around five percent.”

  • Rental properties can make good investments, but they come with risk

    BY NATHAN SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • Sherlock wakened forensic science

    Sherlock Holmes, the fabled stalker of clues, was a charismatic spur to science in the cause of catching wrongdoers and clearing the innocent.
         His popular intrigues taught methods of close observation and simple physics. See the hidden footprint there. So how could this speck of blood land here? ... Elementary, my dear Watson.
         Sherlock Holmes readers delight in how the master sleuth and his doctor friend used their specialized fields of knowledge to solve dark mysteries. Two of their specialties were exotic poisons and animal behaviors. Any full-blooded Holmes fan can name classic cases of each.  
         Ballistics, fingerprints and handwriting bring other facts to bear that can weigh for or against a crime suspect. Newer tools include DNA evidence and a range of smart cameras and phones.
         All such advances for probing and proving the story are now known as “forensic science.”
         The term “forensic” itself tells a story. Forensic is from the Latin
    forensis, meaning “of or before the forum.” In history, Romans decided
    whether an accused person was guilty or not guilty by speeches made before the forum. 

  • South of the border, down Mexico way

    Last week I drove from Palomas, the Mexican town opposite Columbus, all the way west to Agua Prieta, the twin to Douglas in Arizona. The highway first swings south to skirt the Bootheel and then strikes back north to within a few miles of the border, where it claws its way up the northernmost slopes of the formidable Sierra Madre.
    Two narrow lanes squeezed between sheer cliffs and precipitous canyons, the road climbs a half mile in fewer than 10.
    There are neither shoulders nor guard-rails; only the little roadside shrines warn of the perils beyond the next hairpin turn.
    The blacktop is battered daily by the passage of hundreds of heavy trucks, some of them pulling double trailers up the steep grades. Bad as it is, this is one of just two highways over the mountains for hundreds of miles to the south.
    At the top of the pass you cross the Continental Divide at 6,500 feet. From there you can look down and see the black line of the border fence running ruler straight across the plain far below.
    The drive back from Douglas on the American side is a cruise-controlled siesta compared to the crossing from Chihuahua to Sonora. On NM 9 you follow the old railroad bed for mile after mile of gentle curves and long, level straightaways.

  • The case of Gov. Martinez vs. New Mexico courts

    What’s up with the governor and the state’s judicial system?
    As she directed some of her angrier vetoes to the courts in the last few years, we had to wonder. This year, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels said the courts are “on life support.”
    Remember that our founding New Mexico fathers intended the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – to be on an equal footing.
    Let’s look at a timeline.
    Jan. 22, 2011: Daniels told legislators the judiciary had cut to the bone, closing some magistrate courts, reducing expenses, freezing hiring and leaving vacancies unfilled, even as workload increased because of the economic downturn.
    Jan. 25, 2011: Daniels ruled against Gov. Susana Martinez, who tried to keep two environmental regulations from taking effect. “No one is above the law,” Daniels said.
    Also in 2011 District Judge Sarah Singleton in Santa Fe ruled against Martinez’s attempt to have the Motor Vehicle Department verify the residency status of foreign nationals with New Mexico driver’s licenses.
    2012: A judge in the Second Judicial District ordered Martinez to remove the names of most people on the state’s payroll information from the Sunshine Portal. She published the names elsewhere.

  • Credit union merger to create largest NM owned financial institution

    Two Albuquerque credit unions are merging. The combination of Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union and Kirtland Federal Credit Union will have total assets of just over $3 billion, which makes for the largest New Mexico based financial institution and more than double the $1.4 billion In assets recorded by Los Alamos National Bank in September.
    Los Alamos National has had the “largest-local” title since its bigger brethren were sold to companies such as Well Fargo and Bank of America more than 20 years ago.
    Robert Chavez, Sandia president and CEO, will lead the combined company. Chavez is an alumnus of Sunwest Bank.
    The two credit unions have an enviable customer base (credit union customers are called “members”) that combines the people from Albuquerque’s research establishment (Sandia National Laboratories) and the military, which is most everything else on Kirtland Air Force Base.
    These people are steadily employed, decently paid and loyal. Bankers should be so lucky.
    After jumping the regulatory hoops, the deal is expected to be done by the end of 2017.

  • Hey, MVD, how about solving the faded license plate problem?

    Check out license plates the next time there is an opportunity to cruise a big parking lot, say at the neighborhood supermarket.
    My informal supermarket survey suggests that about half the plates are the new, cool blue centennial plates with the rest the traditional red and yellow. Perhaps half the red and yellow plates (a quarter of the total) show some fading and half of those are significantly dimmed, faded enough so as to be difficult to read. For a few, the red of the numbers will be a faint hint against the remaining yellow of the background. For another few, the sheeting, as the industry calls it, will be dried and peeling. 3M (3M.com) makes sheeting.
    The ugly balloon plates, which seem especially prone to fading, are no more. This design dates to 1999, making the plates a legacy of Gov. Gary Johnson.
    At Santa Teresa, the hordes of Texas license plates are neither faded nor peeling. Likewise on a recent trip to Arizona we saw all of two faded plates, both of them specialty plates.
    The only number I found for a New Mexico vehicle count was 1.7 million in 2009, from  Statista, a German firm. In 2014, those vehicles were driven by the nation’s second worst drivers, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

  • Nonprofit lender helps machine shop expand, diversify client portfolio

    Finance New Mexico