• 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Industrial revenue bonds are a form of public-private partnership — a tool that governments can use to stimulate economic development, allowing them to offer tax subsidies for new or expanding businesses that create jobs and improve communities.
    Subsidies may include a property tax exemption, a gross receipts tax deduction and compensating tax exemption if certain equipment is purchased with bond proceeds, an exemption for bond interest from New Mexico income tax and, in some cases, an exemption of bond interest from federal income tax.
    These types of bond issues have been popular as a way to help New Mexico cities and towns compete — without assuming financial liability — for capital-intensive projects by extending tax subsidies to reduce the risks and costs for a company to move here.
    New Mexico cities and counties are authorized to issue IRBs.
    To be eligible for IRB financing in New Mexico, a project must encourage manufacturers and commercial businesses to move or expand here or to promote the state’s agricultural products or natural resources.
    IRB candidates include factories, assembly plants, warehouse and distribution hubs, nonprofit enterprises, health-care services, research facilities, industrial parks and corporate offices.

  • An ugly word, “shortfall,” appears twice at the bottom of page 7 of “2015 Post-Session Review,” the Legislative Finance Committee’s report on the 2015 legislative session.
    Based on what the LFC calls “a somewhat conservative scenario for expenditure growth,” revenue is projected to be $14.6 million less than spending in the 2017 budget year (FY 17) and $3.6 million short in FY 18.
    While FY 17 is a way off — it doesn’t start for another year — the idea of less money appearing than the amount of projected spending rattles the psyche of government people. The normal government world means more money each year to provide raises, expand programs and do new stuff. Less money requires ugly choices by elected officials, even conservative ones who are especially prone to copping out of their proclaimed financial righteousness.
    The problem will be solved, if only because the state Constitution requires a balanced budget. The state keeps a reserve fund, which offers the easy place to cover the shortfall. However, the reserves will take a $153 million hit this year because of reduced revenues and unexpected spending requirements.
    For the coming budget year (FY 16) that starts July 1, state government plans to spend $6.23 billion, $7 million less than anticipated revenue.

  • Joel Williams’ piece is a classic example of people with only a little information trying to convince you that all those professional climate scientists have missed his points even though they are the ones who did all the work he cites.
    Consider just one of the unsaid assumptions: that a single ice core at one place near a pole on the Earth is representative of global behavior…not!  As for recent temperature fluctuations, Williams’ graph disagrees with every one of the peer-reviewed papers — some 20 of them — in their determinations of global (not just in Europe or Greenland) temperature variations in the past. Since you presented graphs, here are a few to consider.
    The first shows that, just as planetary rotation and orbital cycles predict (so-called Malenkovitch Cycles, which govern large scale climate change over the past million or so years), the climate has been cooling down for the past 8,000 years or so as the Earth’s orientation to the sun slowly changes. And that’s why the recent unprecedentedly rapid warming is a matter of concern.
    On the graph: top is from an ice core, middle is measurement of altitude of treeline. Bottom is from stalactites in a cave.

  • I’m pleased to report that the County Manager’s monthly report, which provides information about county projects and performance, will become a standing agenda item on the second council meeting of each month.
    This change will give the county manager a structured opportunity to discuss high priority or time sensitive initiatives in the report, which has been distributed to council members for some time.
    Typical report topics include updates on ongoing construction projects or information about extraordinary achievements. For example, in this month’s report, there’s an update on the teen center remodel and on other major facilities projects; information about how the county is preparing for the summer tourist season; and activities at county parks and recreation facilities.
    By putting the report on the council agenda as a monthly briefing by the county manager, the public visibility of the information in the report will be elevated; and there will be a routine, recurring opportunity for council members and the public to ask specific questions about these issues.
    Additionally, it will add an important feedback loop that will help the county manager better understand concerns and perspectives from the council and the public.

  • We just completed our Great American Road Trip. Remember, “See the USA in your Chevrolet.” That was us — 5,900 miles and 26 days — but in a Toyota and including Canada. Close enough.
     Such a trip offers opportunity to think about New Mexico and to learn. Trip details would bore. A few observations are pertinent.
    Painted overpasses are this column’s proxy for misguided uses of tax money. Around 20 percent of federal gas tax revenue goes for non-highway uses from light rail to bike lanes, says Mac Zimmerman, policy director for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group. Non-highway uses include painting overpasses, I presume.
    Digression: Unmentioned everywhere, so far as I know, is that bicyclists have no equivalent to gas taxes. Nor, I suspect, is there a bicycle drivers license. If gas taxes are a user fee of sorts, then cyclists are quite literally “free riders.”
    A couple of days passed before I started paying real attention to overpasses.
    This was in spite of seeing the all-time champion ugly painted overpass our first day. It was 10 miles west of Santa Rosa, pink and awful. A pink ribbon was painted at one side, perhaps indicating cancer “awareness.” The result of the paint was no less ugly for the good intentions.

  • The question is not whether history will be debated, but how.
    The key is telling how times affect deeds. If the past fades out, debate decays to mere sound and fury.
    The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is in the offing. To gain perspective, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Park Service came to town last week. The agencies sought ways to display history that changed history, its actual sites, accurate accounts of details, a breadth of aspects and human interest.
    The largest gathering in their visit was on the wide lawn at Fuller Lodge last Tuesday. Discussing this column’s themes with the National Park Service found out their thoughts run parallel.
    As we did in 2010, our citizens group proposed telling environmental history. The idea has two parts, events and context:
    1) The park should relate the environmental history of nuclear weapons work.
    2) This history should be set in the context of the nation’s environmental history for the same period.
    In the 1940s, there were few laws, just common practices. The Manhattan Project — at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Hanford, Washington — followed the waste-handling practices of the time.
    On this point, atomic scientists thought like industrial engineers.

  • The owner of a Houston area ambulance company receives a 97-month prison sentence for submitting $2.4 million in claims to Medicare for services that weren’t necessary and, in some cases, never even provided.
    Two unlicensed medical school graduates each get 72 months behind bars for acting as physicians in a Dallas area house call practice and billing Medicare $2.7 million for home visits and diagnostic tests never performed.
    A Houston man receives an 87-month prison term for recruiting Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, using their personal health information and billing the government for motorized wheelchairs never delivered.
    For too long, the crooks who were behind health care fraud were often one step ahead of law enforcement.
    But that’s finally changing, thanks to better coordination among federal agencies and the introduction of cutting-edge technology, more criminals are being brought to justice.
    The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice now have a task force that targets areas with suspicious Medicare billings.
    The “HEAT Team” crime investigators sift through claims data to identify billing patterns that suggest someone has run afoul of the law.

  • I feel cheated. A friend posted a link on Facebook saying that if I shared the post, Bill Gates would send me $5,000.
     And I never got the money!  Not one cent!
     It›s bad enough that I never got my share of the $14 billion that the Nigerian Governor of Consumer Affairs took out of the country. I was depending on that for my retirement.
    Long before the Internet, urban legends proliferated with the speed of mildew in wet laundry in New Jersey.
    The earliest memory I have of mysterious tales of the unknown was the “amazing associations” made between the assassinations of President Abraham Lincoln and President John F. Kennedy.
    Both were elected to Congress in ‘46.  Both were shot on a Friday. Lincoln was shot in the Ford Theater. Kennedy was shot riding in a Ford Lincoln.
    Clearly, this is no coincidence. It’s a government conspiracy!
    Personally, I think Kennedy was a clone, replaced after his alien abduction. He’s now a Borg and helping Plutonians plan their conquest of Earth.
    OK, if it’s printed, it must be true?
    Ringo Starr admitted that the Beatles did in fact “bury Paul” and that a twin took his place. I’ve also read that this was predicted by Nostradamus.

  • What the Environmental Sustainability Board is trying to do with this plastic bag ban (green initiative) is to do the right thing as an entity for the collective good of the people.
    This means to reduce, reuse and recycle through the use of greener products, will reduce the amount of waste we make — and impact we have on the environment — and is necessary for a better tomorrow for Los Alamos and the world.
    But when they do this they seek to have community involvement and they got quite what they did not expect with this community.
    We have “fouls” being called. We’ve got people holding to the idea of “consumer choice,” “convenience” and “ease of use.” These are all the labels for not wanting to change and do the right thing.
    Consumerism is eating planet Earth of house and home. There’s a lot of statistics out there...you know about how 80 percent of the nation’s consumptive water use is consumed, 45 percent of all land in the U.S. is used for agriculture, and so on.
    American consumerism could be labeled glutinous. A lack of willingness to use cloth grocery sacks instead of plastic bags could be labeled as laziness. Self-justification could be labeled as “consumer choice” in the name of “not doing the right thing.”

  • The workers’ compensation system, we sometimes observe, is a patchwork of contradictory and inconsistent rules that are hard to understand and even harder to live with.
    Our courts don’t make this any easier.
    We were reminded of this recently at the annual conference of the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Association, where we heard several recitations of the weirdness of workers’ compensation case law.
    One presentation, by attorneys Jim Rawley and Kelly Genova, focused narrowly on issues related to return to work.
    When a worker is recovered from an injury, something is supposed to happen: he goes back to his old job, or he chooses not to go back to the job, or because of his injury he can no longer do the job, or a hundred other possibilities.
    Workers’ compensation is a statutorily micromanaged system. The law is supposed to provide explicit guidance about who is obligated to do what for whom. But reality plays tricks.
    Do you know the TV show, “What Would You Do?” This column is like that game. Read and guess.

  • Despite unseasonably cold and wet weather during the weeks leading up to the Dog Jog, April 25 dawned sunny and calm, allowing hundreds of runners and walkers and their eager dogs to enjoy participating in the 18th Annual Dog Jog. Our new location for pre- and post-race activities at Rover Park was a big hit with humans and canines alike.
    This year’s Dog Jog raised over $14,000 for Friends of the Shelter. Friends of the Shelter (FOS) is a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to abandoned animals and to pets and their owners in northern New Mexico. Our catastrophic care program pays for veterinary care for sick or injured animals that have no owners or whose owners cannot afford the treatment. Our spay/neuter program provides grants to our partner organizations, including the Española Valley Humane Society and the McKinley County Animal Shelter so that they can provide low- or no-cost spay/neuter services to their clients. FOS also encourages responsible pet ownership and promotes adoption of shelter animals through education and outreach.

  • Cougars and bears: Are they game, predators, varmints, wildlife in need of protection?
    The state Game and Fish Department and the Game Commission are once again in the crosshairs of conservation groups over proposals to control cougar and bear populations.
    The department revisits its plans every four years and suggests it’s time to trim both populations. The public debate has focused on numbers, drought, timing and trapping.
    Like a whirlwind raising dust, the discussion also drags in the old welfare rancher vs. tree-hugger feud. We hear that Game and Fish coddles ranchers and that the commission is a bunch of good-’ol-boy political appointees.
    Let’s dispense with those first.
    If your livelihood depends on livestock, you’ll lean on the department for protective measures. And the commission has always been political. Gov. Bill Richardson caught flak for appointing campaign donors to the commission, and he certainly wasn’t the first.
    This same commission in 2013 accepted the resignation of department director Jim Lane, a Kentuckian with no interest in biology, who would have painted a bullseye on the side of every predator in the state.
    So ranchers and conservationists aren’t going to agree. But there are some troubling aspects of this debate.

  • Recently, Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed a pact with 11 other states and countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.
    The non-binding agreement pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. A United Nations summit on climate control will take place in Paris later this year.
    “Climate change” and “environmental pollution” are not very well delineated. Air pollution that extends tens of thousands of feet upward is hard to miss. Neither is dense, choking smog in Beijing. These are examples of mankind’s polluting the environment and not of global climate changes. The greenhouse effect makes common scientific sense. It is the magnitude of the effect of such pollutions on a global scale and the non-human effects that are the issues.
    Having delved into the matter, it is not clear that we are destined for a 2-degree Celsius rise over the current global level that is currently getting lots of press and TV coverage. Pollution is something mankind can moderate and should! Global climate control is something else!

  • When my daughter told me that Mark Ruffalo — an actor and leftist activist — would be receiving a prestigious prize at her 2015 commencement at Dickinson College, I was dismayed but not surprised.
    Dickinson, an elite liberal arts college in central Pennsylvania, is a hotbed of “sustainability” which permeates virtually everything it does, from curriculum to architecture to what’s featured in its quarterly magazine. It came as no shock that Dickinson chose Ruffalo to receive its $100,000 prize for “global environmental activism.”
    My dismay came from the sinking suspicion that the commencement experience was likely to be a series of unending left-wing bromides. On this score, neither Ruffalo, nor Sam Rose, who introduced him, disappointed. Rose, the prize’s benefactor, claimed that man-made climate change, not ISIS nor terrorism nor illegal immigration nor [fill in the blank], is the main threat to humankind.
    He was dismayed, too, that there’s anyone on Earth who doesn’t wholeheartedly accept the left’s premises about climate change. So, argued Rose, we need to bring people around, “by hook or by crook,” to recognize these indisputable truths. In other words, when it comes to saving civilization from itself, the ends justify the means.

  • Should a dream wedding mean delaying a down payment on a home? That’s a tradeoff many couples make these days.
    The Knot, a wedding planning and publishing company, recently released its Real Weddings Study of average wedding costs for 2014, announcing a national average price tag of $31,213 — and that’s not including the honeymoon.
    The average cost of a wedding is a good point of comparison against other major financial goals in a new marriage.
    Considering that the average price of a new home in America is now $200,000, that wedding estimate would cover the majority of a 20 percent down payment ($40,000). Despite getting married to my wife at family home 15 years ago, I still remember the sticker shock for all the wedding costs — a whopping $10,000 for the entire event from tux, dress, flowers, food and honeymoon.
    Here are a few suggestions to plan a wedding that won’t break the bank:

  • Star Trek” fans (Trekkies) all have their favorite alien characters.
    Mine are the Ferengi, shameless greedy little creatures who cackle with delight as they rationalize any effort to make a buck.
    Their “Rules of Acquisition” outline directives for profit. Rule 34 states, “War is good for business.”
    Given that the United States has been involved, with direct or indirect military actions, for 217 years out of its 239-year history, business has been good for America.
    Not particularly good though for the American warriors who fight the battles.
    A friend asked, “Why do we say ‘Happy Memorial Day?’ What are we happy about?”
    Good question. It seems natural to use the word “happy” when you identify the day as something to be cheerful about. Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries. These are happy events.
    There’s nothing to be happy about on Memorial Day. It’s a day set aside to remember and honor those who have died serving in the military.
    But here in America, we thrive on being happy, taking any excuse to have a party, a barbecue, or to rush off to the shopping malls for sales on things we don’t need. What better way to honor fallen warriors than by getting that SpongeBob T-shirt for your kid?