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Today's Opinions

  • Rules for predatory lenders must reflect letter, spirit of law

    An elderly woman got a small loan from a storefront lender and couldn’t understand why she could never manage to pay off the loan even though she made payments.

    Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, explained the basics of principal and interest and renewal language in the loan agreement. Once she understood, she cried inconsolably.

    Last year, when the Legislature finally reformed laws governing storefront lenders – also called predatory lenders or payday lenders – there was a sense of accomplishment that they had dispatched a nagging problem after years of complaints.

    A recent hearing in Gallup made it clear there’s still work to do. Gorman blamed the lenders’ deliberately confusing communications for financial burdens on Navajos, but the small lenders trap Indian and non-Indian people alike.

    This is one reason New Mexico is poor. Thousands of people can’t get out from under these debts with their spiraling interest rates, so they don’t participate fully in the economy.

  • Money is rolling in, but budget makers are cautious

    During the 2018 legislative session, held in January and February, the Legislature passed a budget for the 2019 budget year that starts July 1.

    The news is not that the Legislature did its job of passing the budget, but that the task, straightforward if difficult, was done without headline-generating nastiness, a difference from previous years.

    Possibly the biggest difference was that some new money was available. Saying yes to proposals always makes elected officials happier. The task of no is difficult, involving choices and facing constituents convinced of the righteousness of their cause.

    In her cover letter to the Legislative Finance Committee’s annual Post-Session Review, LFC Chair Patricia Lundstrom said, “An economic rebound made the 2018 legislative session a very different experience from the session of a year ago.”

    One significant item adds $28.4 million to early childhood programs, continuing a years-long commitment from the Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez.

    The additional money stands in the face of claims that raiding the permanent funds would somehow make something magic happen.

  • Startup success begins with team of top performers

    BY PAUL BUTLER
    Managing partner, Azrael Partners and former chief operating officer of Lumidigm, Inc.

    Building a startup or creating a new line of business is hard work, and statistics show the odds of success are long ones. Beating the numbers comes down to a combination of experience, expertise, and commitment.

    The last of these three traits is important, but experience and expertise can make or break your venture in three critical areas.

    Building a high-performance team: Behind every profitable venture is a team. You might have a compelling idea, an excellent offering with market fit, and a large market opportunity, but without a competent team, your business won’t make it.

    You need folks who excel at what they do, because they’re an order of magnitude more productive than average employees. They also know what not to do. By helping a business avoid unnecessary cycles of learning and poor decisions, they allow more of that productive power to be used efficiently.

    Employees with this level of skill are drawn to startups because they seek a challenge, expect the payoff to be significant and hate mediocrity and bureaucracy. They must believe in the offering and will do their own calculus on your venture’s probability of success before joining the team.

  • Are new corporations  bigger bad wolves?

    The name “Big Bad Wolf” rings scary alarms in voters’ heads. The left and the right reply to fears with fears about big corporations, a big army, big unions, big government and big donors to big campaigns. Metaphors of politics picture Big Bad Wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing or lying in Grandma’s bed. Small wonder that big corporations incite voters to cry, “Grandma, what big teeth you have.”

    Big corporations indeed need a thorough look to figure them out. Big companies have grown through the centuries and brought society hoped-for benefits and unwanted side effects.

    The first Industrial Revolution began in the 1760s in Britain, evolved through the 1840s and came later to the US.

    Many histories come to mind. People produced copper, steel, oil and aluminum and, with them, crafted faster reapers, tractors, cars, trucks and airplanes, later on with radios in them and radars at airports. With these products, people grew and shipped better produce at good prices for more people. Jobs grew. Corporations grew – Big Farming, Big Finance, Big Pharma.

  • Los Alamos Middle School’s ‘D’ Grade from an Education Czar

    BY LISA SHIN
    Republican candidate for NM House of Representatives, Dist. 43

    The Los Alamos Public Schools rank among the best in our State, if not our Nation, when it comes to student reading and math proficiency. This, of course, is the natural result of our highly skilled and educated workforce.

    Los Alamos has one of the country’s highest concentrations of Ph.D.s. Our community puts a high priority on education, and it shows. So why then, did our Middle School, receive a D grade last year? At the League of Women Voters’ event earlier this month, Dr. Kurt Steinhaus explained. Even though our students demonstrated a high 83 percent academic proficiency, it was down from a 85% proficiency the previous year. Another school in New Mexico demonstrated a 14 percent proficiency, but received an “A” grade because it was up from a 7 percent proficiency the previous year. A school in Artesia was a National Blue Ribbon School one year, a prestigious designation for high achievement, but received a D grade.

  • Why I care about education and health care

    BY PETE SHEEHEY
    Los Alamos County Councilor, Democratic candidate for NM House of Representatives, Dist. 43

    I have written about the importance of scientists like myself playing a role in government. I will work to make sure that facts and sound science are included in lawmaking. I was honored recently that the National Education Association-New Mexico has recommended my candidacy, because I also feel strongly that good affordable public education and health care for all are the keys to a strong society and economy.

    My life experience has taught me this. I grew up in a working class family. My parents were well-read, intelligent people, but were only able to get a year or two of college because of the Great Depression and World War II. From an early age, they took my sisters and me to the public library and encouraged our curiosity, so we looked forward to starting school.

    We had access to good affordable public education, and this served us well. One sister became a librarian, the other an English and Creative Writing teacher.  

  • What you didn’t want to know about the Land Grant Permanent Fund

    We’ve all heard the arguments about early childhood education as the solution to pull New Mexico out of poverty. The state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund is targeted as a way to pay for it.

    Not so fast. The devil is in the details. 

    What follows is the kind of policy wonkish recitation that sends people tiptoeing out of the room. This explanation comes from former State Land Commissioner Ray Powell, who knows because he’s watched lawmakers and others sneak out the back door.

    The Permanent Fund is not one big pot of money that we can dip into any way we choose. The money is all spoken for. Changing the distribution requires a state constitutional amendment and approval by Congress.

    Our state trust lands were established with a checkerboard pattern, six squares by six, a total of 36 squares each representing a square mile. The pattern was applied all over the state. In each checkerboard, four squares – none touching each other -- were given to the state. 

    These tracts are scattered everywhere. On the Land Office map (on the website, look for LandStatus11x17) they appear as lots of tiny pale blue squares and larger clumps where tracts are consolidated.

    Each tract is earmarked for a specific beneficiary. And so is the revenue from that tract.

  • Internet purchases challenge local budgets

    BY HOLLY BRADSHAW-EAKES
    Finance New Mexico

    As budget-conscious consumers increasingly opt for the convenience and economy of online shopping, states like New Mexico are ramping up pressure on internet-based retailers to collect and remit the taxes states need to provide essential services.

    While Amazon.com recently agreed to charge New Mexico consumers the state portion of the gross receipts tax (GRT), more change is needed to erase what states see as an unfair advantage for online retailers over local merchants who are required to collect and remit the entire combination of state and local taxes.

    New Mexico consumers, for example, can still avoid paying the state GRT when buying from a third-party vendor on the Amazon marketplace platform. And they don’t pay local option taxes that communities levy to subsidize local needs. For example, a Santa Fean who buys a book from Amazon pays 5.125 percent of the purchase price to cover state taxes, but she won’t be assessed the additional 3.3125 percent in local taxes to support city services.

    Local governments have few options to correct this imbalance, but states are taking action.

    Fighting for fairness