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Today's Opinions

  • Op-Ed: Legislators Favor Special Interests over Public Interests

    By Aubrey Dunn, Commissioner of Public Lands

    In an effort to protect one of our country’s largest and most important sources of drinking water, I adopted a policy earlier this year to curtail usage of drinking water from the Ogallala aquifer for oil and gas production, specifically the process of hydraulic fracturing.

    I remain a proponent of hydraulic fracturing for the advances it has allowed in energy development in New Mexico and the increased revenue that it has helped to bring to our state; however, as it relates to the use of our state’s natural resources, I believe in responsible conservation.  

    Subsequently, I have been sued by a State Land Office permittee who has made millions of dollars selling drinking water for oil and gas related activities and I have been publicly vilified by some members of the New Mexico State Legislature.

    The Ogallala is a shallow water table aquifer located beneath the Great Plains with portions in eight states, including eastern New Mexico, and provides nearly all the fresh water for residential, industrial and agricultural use.

  • Honoring veterans through business support

    BY FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    New Mexico is home to more than 160,000 veterans, and about half of them are under the age of 65. For those former service members interested in operating businesses, state and federal agencies can help with business formation, certification and contract acquisition that levels the playing field for vets that have spent their careers out of the private sector.

    Veterans come to the private-sector workforce with a lot to offer, including advanced training in specialized fields such as logistics, security, information technology, personnel management and administration. They understand the complexities of doing business with the U.S. government and the importance of following instructions and protocol.

    They appreciate the need for teamwork and leadership, and they work well under pressure. In other words, veterans have the skills needed to start and manage a business.

    Veteran-specific help

    The Office of Veterans Business Development is the advocacy arm of the U.S. government for veterans in business. Besides acting as an ombudsman, the OVBD provides oversight of federal procurement programs for veteran-owned and service-disabled-veteran-owned small businesses.

  • Water regulators making waves as water grab flows

    When three members of the Interstate Stream Commission resign abruptly, we need to pay attention.

    When they point fingers at the State Engineer, we need to be worried. The two agencies are our water watchdogs.

    The ISC oversees New Mexico’s participation in interstate stream compacts, protects and develops the state’s water and does water planning. The State Engineer regulates water rights and serves as ISC secretary.

    The ISC has withered with an exodus of staffers blamed on both State Engineer Tom Blaine and the administration’s budget cuts. It’s an open secret in the water world that Blaine wants the traditionally independent ISC under his thumb.

    Blaine meanwhile has opened the gate to the state’s biggest water grab.

    The ISC in recent months has lost its director, Colorado River bureau chief, special projects bureau chief, general counsel, acting general counsel, and Middle Rio Grande Basin manager. It has just two senior staffers left.

    When Blaine hired Deborah Dixon in early 2015, she was senior vice president at Bohannan Huston, a major engineering firm. “Ms. Dixon is an outstanding engineer who has valuable experience working in water projects in New Mexico,” Blaine said.

    Blaine fired Dixon in June without a word to commissioners.

  • Campaigns need to promote civil discourse, dignity

    Ideas for our coming campaign season: Respect and dignity.
    In offering these ideas as a thematic umbrella for the races for governor, U. S. Senate and, indeed, all others, I am not suggesting boredom, ponderous speeches with long explications of obscurity. Nor am I suggesting that candidates refrain from discussion of the opponent’s record.
    Candidates must talk about matters that will make a difference in voter’s lives and they must discuss these subjects with vigorous statements that will get voters’ attention. Talking about the opponent’s record is the best way to create contrast, which is necessary to provide a reason to vote one way or the other.
    The problem is how the messages are presented. Or not presented, as in the case of Albuquerque Republican mayoral candidate Dan Lewis.
    We have a long record of political nastiness. At our country’s beginning, wrote historian Gordon Wood recently in the Wall Street Journal, “The conservative and liberal parties – the Federalists and the Jeffersonian Republicans, respectively – were led by two distinguished patriots, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and the partisan campaigns waged by their parties were bitter and scurrilous.”

  • Editorial Roundup: Hartnett has terrible environmental record

    The Dallas Morning News

  • Political, market solutions needed to fix health care

    Martin Hickey has been around the quadrangle in healthcare, working in public institutions (Indian Health Service and the VA) and private.
    He’s best known here as former CEO of Lovelace Health Systems, although he worked outside the state for three other companies.
    Now he runs New Mexico Health Connections, a nonprofit health insurance cooperative founded in response to the Affordable Care Act.
    In a talk before New Mexico Press Women last week, Hickey was frank about doctors, hospitals, and the healthcare system.
    “Money has rained down on top of it,” he said, referring to healthcare, and yet outcomes are worse than cheaper systems in other industrial nations. We don’t have real competition between doctors or hospitals, and hospitals are money machines.
    A physician, Hickey said he took his last exam in 1981, but he can still hang out a shingle anywhere. You may like your doctor, but you really don’t know how skilled he or she is because they’re never measured.
    Some healthcare organizations have gotten better at measuring doctors, but the only people who know the results are other doctors, so “you have physicians working with other physicians, and most of the high-cost doctors will get better or leave.” Still, he thinks all doctors should undergo a yearly simulator test.

  • Democracy, money at stake for the state in 2020 census

    Note: This column was first published in the New Mexico Political Report, which can be found at NMPoliticalReport.com.

    Pop quiz.
    Which of the following statements are true?

    -The census is constitutionally required in order to count every person in the U.S.
    -The census determines how much federal money—more than $6 billion—flows into New Mexico’s economy every year.
    -New Mexicans are more at risk of not being counted by the census than are people in most every other state.
    -The census is in jeopardy—and that puts New Mexicans in jeopardy.

  • It’s hard to keep up with all the gross receipts laws

    New Mexico’s gross receipts tax is admittedly confusing, but the state still expects businesses to follow the law and pay what they owe from the sale of property or services.
    In a nutshell, GRT is a substitute for the traditional sales tax that shoppers in other states pay when they make a purchase. In New Mexico, the seller pays the tax on the sales price of a product or service even if the seller doesn’t collect it from the buyer — and even if the buyer lives out of state.
    GRT was intended to widen the tax base by taxing more items at a lower rate than would be typical in states with a sales tax. Over the years, however, cities and counties have responded to reductions in local revenues caused by state-allowed exemptions and deductions by loading on their own assessments.
    The combined tax rate in some towns is now — or is about to go over — 9 percent. Until lawmakers agree on an alternative system, businesses should know how to comply with the status quo.
    GRT applies to the gross receipts of businesses or people who sell property, perform services, lease or license a property or franchise in New Mexico, and sell certain services delivered outside New Mexico when the resulting product is initially used here.