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Today's Opinions

  • With capital outlay, we borrow from Peter and forget to pay Paul

    Last week our legislators did a good thing.
    During a short, business-like special session, they passed a public works bill and a package of tax incentives and directed funding to the courts and the Health Department.
    At the end of the day, Sen. John Arthur Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, threw a little cold water on the euphoric proceedings. Ninety-nine municipalities supported the capital outlay bill, he said.
    “I want them to be on their guard. We can claw that back. That’s not an empty threat. They will have to act more responsibly. I have a list of how much money is out there not spent.”
    The Legislature giveth and the Legislature taketh away.
    As Smith has said before, he doesn’t play games or make idle threats. Next year, without a solid economic rebound of the state’s economy or oil and gas revenues, we can expect another tight budget. Smith’s committee and its counterpart in the House will be looking for money.
    During the regular session, last winter, State Auditor Tim Keller announced that $4.5 billion was sitting in more than 700 state accounts. Of that, $2 billion, primarily from past allocations, hadn’t been spent for infrastructure projects, including $700 million for water projects.

  • We’re not alone in tax policy woes

    If you want to get a laugh out of some of the wonkiest policy wonks in the state, try this: The top question asked these days by tax policy people all over the country is what’s happening with taxing marijuana.
    Everybody wants to jump on that bandwagon.
    Hold off, said Scott Pattison, director of the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), speaking recently at a conference of the New Mexico Tax Research Institute. The news is not that exciting. Legalizing and taxing marijuana will not solve New Mexico’s revenue problems. Darn!
    And some New Mexico policy makers thought it was such a clever idea.
    The benefit of a speaker with national perspective is that he reminds us we’re not alone, we’re not that different from other states and the laws of nature and economics apply, even in the Land of Enchantment.
    According to Pattison, most states face the same critical needs and no state has enough revenue to meet them all.
    The big issues include infrastructure, education, tax cuts, revenue shortfalls, arguments about other funding mechanisms (read: marijuana tax), Medicaid and more Medicaid.
    Several states rely on oil and gas for a major part of their funding. They’re all having a hard time. Some states rely on federal spending, as New Mexico does.

  • Council should have simply said ‘thank you’ to the bag-ban petitioners

    I did not comment in the county’s forum before and see no need to do so now.
    The opinion of the vast majority of those who did comment was clear to me. Will the plaintiffs stuff the ballot box now that it has been reopened?
    Our system is supposed to be a democracy. This means that the will of the majority is to be legislated and not the will of a minority who would dictate/mandate that “their morality” and their view of the “right thing to do” be imposed on everyone.
    I have decided to “review” recent activities and make some observations.
    Shortly after the Environmental Sustainability Board (ESB) met on May 13 and the floor was opened for debate as to whether Los Alamos County should “ban or otherwise reduce the distribution of single use bags,” supporters asked the board to withdraw the option of an outright ban. Rather than banning the bag now, they would rather have Los Alamos County mandate pay-per-bag for both paper and single-use plastic, indicating that this would give everyone, environmentalists and free choice consumers alike, pretty much what we want.

  • Schools get 45 percent of state spending growth

    Spending by state government during the coming budget year (fiscal 2016) on the largest categories will be about the same as during the year ending June 30.
    That’s because little additional money is expected during the new year and also because no consensus — not even a fleeting conversation — exists about any big shuffle of state priorities.
    The “2015 Post-Session Review” from the Legislative Finance Committee reports that for FY 16, appropriations from the general fund (the state’s main pot of operating money) are $2,752 million for public schools, $908 million for Medicaid, $848 million for higher education and $419 million for public safety. Everything else from the acequia and community ditch education program to the Spaceport Authority shares the rest—$1.319 billion. The figures here come from the LFC report.
    The Department of Transportation appropriation is $865 million, mostly for highways but siphoned away for many things. This money does not flow through the general fund.

  • Letters to the editor 6-14-15

    Branding LA is wasted effort

    Branding Los Alamos? Really?
    Are we nothing more than a herd of cattle? For our illustrious county council to even consider spending a quarter of a million dollars for a brand is ridiculous!
    What’s wrong with what we have? For many years, we had a big “LA” whitewashed on the side of burnt mountain courtesy of the high school. Looked like a pretty good “brand” to me.
    Maybe, instead of spending all that money to some out of Los Alamos business, why don’t you follow your own advance and “shop Los Alamos?” Surely we have some firms capable of providing your requested services! As another possibility, the councilors could perhaps initiate a program with the high school wherein the kids could get paid for or reimbursed for the whitewash needed to replenish the LA each year and throw in some hot dogs, burgers and soft drinks to make it worth their while to do the work.
    If that is impractical, perhaps the county could hire some summer students and add that to their job description or duties. They could even hire a few homeless people who might be looking for temporary jobs.
    Too easy? Probably! Too inexpensive? Definitely!
    Regardless, it is one heck of a lot cheaper than $250,000 of taxpayers’ hard earned money.

  • Handsome … but Untested

    Hillary Clinton was in New Mexico last week. Word has it that she was fundraising on behalf of her campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
    Predictably that quest took the former First Lady/former U.S. Senator/former Secretary of State to the doorsteps of the legendary Ed Romero, who was U.S. Ambassador to Spain in the administration of Mrs. Clinton’s husband.
    Ever thereafter the ambassador has been New Mexico’s go-to Democrat other Democrats go to for blessings and big bucks after they have set about running for president.
    About a gazillion American politicians are running for president this time around and most of those included in that gazillion are registered Republicans. Only a handful of Democrats, foremost among them being Hillary Clinton, have declared their interest in the White House.
    It has made her an easy target for the slings and arrows that turned Clinton-bashing into a favorite Republican sport going back almost a quarter of a century now.
    By some readings, recent polls seem to suggest that the attacks are working.
    It overstates nothing to note that there is already a slew of wannabe Republican presidents heading for the campaign trail this year, and, to mix a couple of metaphors, each passing day seems to find another GOP hat sailing toward the ring.

  • Looking for work? Plan a money-smart job search

    A successful job search goes well beyond snagging the title and the paycheck. From the day you start looking until the day you’re hired, there are strategic and financial issues to consider that may be more valuable to you in the long run.
    To start, job seekers should always begin with a plan to promote themselves both in person and online, and some aspects of that process may be tax deductible.
    Keep in mind that if you are already employed, you may want to consider certain timing and legal issues that will define how and when you search. And finally, taking the job requires a close look at benefits.
    It makes sense to discuss any potential job search with a qualified financial advisor who can evaluate your current financial circumstances, as well as offer tips on how to strengthen your preparations for retirement and other goals.
    Start with market research and improving your public profile.
    A recent Jobvite study notes that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles are the ranking social media options reaching employers and for industry hiring and pay projections, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook is a wide-ranging and constantly updated online resource for that data.

  • Keep to the code

    While on the Internet, I got a pop-up Amazon ad for a “United States Flag fleece blanket.”
    Yes, for just $11, you can enjoy watching Housewives of Bayonne, New Jersey, in comfort and style by sitting on the American flag!
    June 14 is Flag Day. Established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, it commemorates the adoption of the U.S. flag by the Second Continental Congress in 1777.
    And what better way to demonstrate patriotism than by wearing an American flag T-shirt that sops up all that sweat as you and your friends kick around an American flag printed soccer ball?
    Patriots do love to strut their colors!
    The dictionary defines a patriot as “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies.” Some patriots will go to “a large popular chain store” this weekend, vigorously toting AK-47s to defend themselves against our own federal government while shopping for sales on Chinese-made products.
    Others will visit cemeteries to place flowers and American flags on the graves of fallen warriors.
    And yet others will trample the flag and burn it.