More hits than misses

-A A +A

New Mexicans did pretty well on ballot questions

 New Mexico voters did their usual good job separating the wheat from the chaff when it came to the questions at the end of the November ballot.
Predictably, they gave a sound thrashing to two constitutional amendments designed to give politicians a longer leash. They gave our veterans a couple more breaks. And they sent a message to our higher education system that it is getting out of hand.
In an era of “throw the bums out,” it is inconceivable that voters would allow county commissioners who have served two four-year terms to run for a third term.
Some small counties argued that they couldn’t find enough people to run. If that’s the case, since we’re already talking about consolidating state agencies and school districts, maybe we should add small counties to that list.
The other defeated amendment in the politico category would have allowed the governor to appoint current legislators to government jobs. That is currently an issue because it prevents Gov.-Elect Martinez from appointing any current legislators to her cabinet.
Those legislators might be the best persons for the jobs. It is often done at the federal level. And it is how the parliamentary system works. But in New Mexico’s current pay-to-play atmosphere, it offers too much of an opportunity for a governor to offer a lawmaker a cushy job in return for support on a close vote.
I can name lawmakers from the past who gladly would have taken such an offer. I also can name a recent situation in which it was alleged a person was given a job in return for not running for a statewide office. That’s legal.
New Mexicans love their veterans. We have sent more than our share of young men, and now women, off to fight and they have served gallantly. So when New Mexico voters are asked to reward them, we almost always do
Perhaps we were a bit too generous this time. Both measures had problems. One created scholarships for veterans of conflicts since 1990. A similar benefit applies to Vietnam vets.
But there is a 15-year period in between that isn’t covered. It’s ripe for an unequal treatment lawsuit. Maybe voters figured we could take care of this now and get the other 15 years covered later.
A related constitutional amendment voters approved allows veterans organizations a property tax exemption. This likely will encourage other fraternal organizations to seek similar treatment.
The fifth amendment updated many sections of the constitution that need updating. But one of those sections required a 75 percent approval. The amendment only received a 57 percent approval.
Bond issues for senior centers, libraries and public schools all passed easily, as usual. But voters narrowly rejected a higher education construction bond issue for the first time in 20 years.
Disagreement exists about the reason for the defeat. The head of the bond issue committee contends the defeat was due to an anti-tax attitude among voters rather than to problems in the higher education system. It is easy to say that is wrong because the other three bond issues passed. But the total fiscal impact of the three successful bond issues were about a ninth the amount of the college bond. Voters may have felt that higher education institutions are just doing too much construction.
That would fit with the feelings expressed by many that higher education has expanded beyond our ability to finance it.
Communities throughout the state have long been proud of their ability to offer higher education to local residents. But with the proliferation of vocational colleges, community colleges, branches of four-year institutions and private colleges, lawmakers are beginning to wonder if we have gone too far.
They currently are looking closely at the overlap of program offerings.
Also to be considered are the number on on-line education programs that are available everywhere and at a lower tuition cost.

Jay Miller insidethecapitol@hotmail.com