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Today's Opinions

  • U.S.-backed loan program helps businesses buy growth assets

    Small companies often lease space before buying or building a property that allows them to expand or modernize. When they’re ready for that leap of faith, the U.S. Small Business Administration can help by underwriting a significant portion of any loan they need.
    The SBA’s 504 loan program is a public-private partnership administered through a Certified Development Company (CDC) that helps small, independently owned companies secure the fixed assets — such as land, building and equipment — that they need to grow and be competitive. If the business owner can provide a minimum of 10 percent of the loan amount, the CDC will underwrite 40 percent — up to $5.5 million in some circumstances — and this makes lenders more comfortable offering a first mortgage for the remaining 50 percent.
    The Loan Fund, a community development financial institution, works with the SBA and CDCs to help business owners obtain 504 loans and access money they might not be able to get. This lets business owners conserve cash for other operating costs.
    Who is eligible?

  • Regarding House Bill 41 — Retention is not the answer

    A wise man once told me that people vote for politicians as they do in well-funded popularity contests.
    It is questionable that the current and impending actions of some policymakers represent the wider public’s interest, and it is difficult when some view election or re-election as unbridled support for their stance on important issues in our state.
    There are many people in New Mexico who feel like they have no voice beyond the voting booth, myself included. I continue to have serious concerns about the current state of our education system and how it reflects our collective beliefs and values, and I know I am not alone.
    My purpose in writing this is to respond to a recent column about House Bill 41, and to urge consistent interaction between the public and their elected officials even after this session’s dust has settled.
    That will take commitment, communication, information, and a willingness from all sides to take the time needed to sit down and consider options without expecting to find a “silver bullet” that will “fix” our education system forevermore.
    We are an ever-changing society. We need processes, beyond the ballots, in place to be able to adapt to changing times. Our founding fathers called this process “democracy,” and it encompasses more than a vote in November.

  • Paying for roads may require robbing Peter and Paul

    Rep. Cathrynn Brown was describing roads in southeastern New Mexico. The pit rule, which requires trucking oil waste to another site, has added to the already heavy traffic on state and county roads.
    Drivers take the shortest route, whether or not the road is safe.
    “Fatalities are a great concern to all of us,” said the Carlsbad Republican. “I got to a point where I dreaded opening the newspaper in the morning. Eddy and Lea counties do the best they can (but) we’re really hurting.”
    On the subject of transportation, you can say the same for every county in the state, from the patched and repatched northern U.S. 285 to McKinley County’s war-surplus bridges that can’t even hold a school bus.
    These debates within the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee grow more urgent every year.
    The governor now supports bonding $300 million in road projects, but last week Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith condemned the proposal as irresponsible. The state, he said, is already overextended.
    What he meant is the state has borrowed to the hilt for transportation. Bonds are IOUs.

  • Behavioral health audit is finally public

    The now-infamous 2013 audit of 15 nonprofit New Mexico behavioral health providers has finally been released to the public by our new Attorney General, Hector Balderas.
    You remember. That’s the audit that led the state Human Services Department to accuse all 15 of massive fraud and stop paying them for services under Medicaid, which led to 12 of those providers being starved out of business, a behavioral health system thrown into chaos and several thousands of very vulnerable clients — including many children and a few possibly dangerous individuals — abandoned.
    Sudden forced withdrawal from psychotropic medications, because there wasn’t anybody left to write the prescriptions, was just one of the disastrous consequences of this event.
    Among the 15 providers, over a three-year period, there were $36 million in cost overruns, the audit claimed. That’s a lot of taxpayer money. But I wonder if there might be other explanations for some of this spending.

  • Time to end failed policy of social promotion

    Knowing how to read is one of the most important life skills you could ever learn. When you know how to read, knowledge is at your fingertips and nothing is far from reach.
    Unfortunately for New Mexico, too many of our children are unable to read proficiently. Yet, year after year, we pass them onto the next grade without blinking an eye.
    This is called social promotion — it’s a failed policy that sets our children up for failure. And it’s high time we put an end to it.
    That is why I have joined two colleagues — Rep. Monica Youngblood and Sen. Gay Kernan — in sponsoring legislation that will not only eliminate this policy, but also give teachers, parents and students the resources they need to succeed.
    The truth is, it is not compassionate to move along our children when they are unprepared.
    Doing so only sets them up for failure. In fact, students who cannot read before the third grade are four times more likely drop out of high school.
    It’s not hard to see why. From first grade through third, our children learn to read. After those critical years, they read to learn.

  • RTW proposals threaten union monopoly — Oh my!

    I was raised a union bigot.
    Unions were evil. My dad hated unions. I don’t know why.
    My perspective has evolved. Unions are useful. Nor are unions bad. However, monopolies are bad.
    One important lesson came from John Dendahl, then running a small unionized technology manufacturing firm in Santa Fe. Years later, Dendahl was the take no-prisoners chair of the state Republicans.
    A union contract defines the rules, Dendahl said.
    His company had not had a strike. In Albuquerque, a large electronics manufacturer claimed (correctly, I suspect) that the workforce included commie agitators and got much grief from the union, the same one as at Dendahl’s firm.
    As I remember, there were complaints, eventually substantiated, about sloppy handling of toxic materials.
    These memories arise in the context of “right to work” proposals (House Bill 75, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, and, Senate Bill 183, a duplicate of HB 75, sponsored by Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington) being considered in the Legislature. Roch is an educator. Sharer is a businessman.
    The proposals would prohibit requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

  • EPA rules offer an unworthy trade off

    Gas prices remain below $2 a gallon in most of New Mexico, providing citizens of our state with some extra cash for their winter fun. Don’t get used to it. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of implementing three rules that a new study by the Rio Grande Foundation and Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University says will substantially drive up the cost of electricity in New Mexico.
    This comes on top of recent, dramatic increases in electricity prices, thanks in part to New Mexico’s aggressive renewable portfolio standard (RPS). With the state’s largest utility PNM looking for a 12 percent rate hike, the RPS forcing utilities to purchase more costly “renewables,” and the Obama Administration’s proposed regulations, the electricity rate hikes faced by New Mexicans are only just beginning.  
    Of course, all New Mexicans want a clean environment; most appreciate the EPA’s intentions. Nonetheless, it’s clear that with the exception of a radical fringe, few are clamoring for new federal regulations that threaten the state’s struggling economy.

  • Remembering James B. Edwards

    Editor’s note: This column first appeared at “The American Spectator.”

    On the morning after Christmas, James B. Edwards passed away. Few Americans under the age of 40 — unless they are South Carolinians — had probably never heard of Jim.
    Here’s the official biography: James B. Edwards was President Ronald Reagan’s original Secretary of Energy. At the age of 17, in 1944, Jim joined the U.S. Maritime Service to serve his country during World War II. Several years later, while still a Navy Reserve officer, he became an oral surgeon.
    In the mid-1960s, concerned about the direction of our country, he got involved in politics, first behind the scenes, then serving a term in the South Carolina State Senate. He surprised the experts in 1974 by becoming the first Republican governor of South Carolina since Reconstruction.
    Limited to one four-year term by the state constitution, Jim worked to promote the presidential candidacy of Ronald Reagan. After Reagan’s election in 1980, he tapped the oral surgeon from South Carolina to be his Secretary of Energy with the mission of shutting down the Department of Energy.