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Today's Opinions

  • Three words for lawmakers on spending new money: Roads, roads, roads

    Thanks mostly to oil and gas, legislators will have $1.2 billion or more in new money to divvy up in the next session.
    After the bruising budget cutting of just a couple of years ago, it’s enough to make legislative finance people giddy. But they’re not giddy. They and we have gotten a lot more realistic about the cycles of state revenues.

    There’s much talk about salting money away in reserves and a newly created rainy day fund, and that’s prudent.

    Beyond that, lawmakers will be awash in suggestions. Of course, that never stopped a red-blooded opinion columnist.
    With the ups and down of our revenues, budgeters will have to be very careful of committing money to recurring programs – even such favorites as early childhood education – because the funding might not be there in the future.

    However, this is a fine opportunity to make some one-time expenditures, and they should begin with roads.

    In January, TRIP, a transportation research group, released its yearly report. Of our major roads, 27 percent are in poor condition, 20 percent mediocre, 12 percent fair, and 41 percent good. Of rural roads, 28 percent are poor, 25 percent mediocre, 13 percent fair, and 34 percent good.

  • Reduce health care costs with an all-payer claims database

    BY KRISTINA G. FISHER
    Associate Director, Think New Mexico

    As deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for health care continually increase, New Mexico families face a conundrum: they are expected to shop around for the most affordable non-emergency care, yet they have no way to find out in advance the cost of a medical procedure at different providers.

    Fortunately, earlier this year New Mexico took a first step toward making health care prices more transparent with the launch of a website, nmhealthcarecompare.com, where anyone can find the average prices paid by Medicaid for nine common, non-emergency procedures at each of the state’s 44 hospitals. The website, which was created as a result of legislation that Think New Mexico drafted and advocated for, also includes quality metrics for the hospitals, such as 30-day readmission rates and patient ratings.

    Now it is time to take the next step: increasing the number of procedures listed on nmhealthcarecompare.com and adding the average prices paid by New Mexicans who are covered by individual or employer-provided insurance policies.

  • Unions are still necessary to safeguard worker rights

    Labor unions aren’t that important any more, my friend said, because all the issues that unions used to fight for are now established in law, and we have government agencies to enforce them.

    This conversation happened before the 2016 election. Today, even the most basic labor protections are no more guaranteed than, say, the continued protected status of national monuments.

    Laws can be changed. For every human right that was earned through political struggle, somebody has to be the watchdog to prevent that right from being taken away and to alert the public when it’s threatened.

    For fair labor standards and workplace safety, that watchdog is organized labor.

    A U.S. Supreme Court decision in June overturned the “fair share” requirement as applied to public-sector unions.

    Shortly thereafter, the state of New Mexico stopped taking fair share payroll deductions for state workers.

    Fair share is based on the principle that labor unions negotiate wages and working conditions on behalf of all workers in eligible categories, including those who have not joined the union. Unions are required to negotiate on behalf of all eligible employees, not just union members.

  • Regional Coalition of LANL Communities: Who Will Hold Los Alamos County Accountable? 

    By Lisa Shin
    Republican Candidate, New Mexico House of Representatives, District 43

    In an upcoming special County Council meeting on Sept. 6, 2018, we can expect Los Alamos County and its elected officials to shift blame and claim innocence. We’ll just ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Hey, let’s celebrate with another 28 shot of Whistlepig!

    Democrats are calling Andrea Romero to step down from the House Race, but who is calling Los Alamos County employees and County Councilors to step down?

    As fiscal agent, Los Alamos County was ultimately responsible for improper reimbursements with public funds. RCLC Board members had their lavish parties and trips, but Los Alamos County paid for them.   

  • Gary Johnson’s PR doesn’t match his track record

    And he’s back.

    Former Gov. Gary Johnson resurfaced as the Libertarian Party candidate in the Senate race, hoping to slow incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich’s sprint to the finish line.

    Johnson always jazzes things up, and his willingness to share his thoughts frankly is refreshing. But he also causes amnesia about who he is, what he’s done, and what he believes.

    The commotion straight out of the chute was typical. Johnson supporters tried to pressure Republican candidate Mick Rich to leave the race so Johnson would have a better chance, as if a Libertarian platform is interchangeable with a Republican platform. It’s not. And Rich has a right to run his own race representing Republicans.

    Libertarians may include refugees of the two major parties, but they aren’t just a meld of those parties – they have distinctive beliefs that may or may not resonate with yours.

  • Define need before applying for business loan

    FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    Most New Mexico entrepreneurs can’t start or operate a small business without occasionally borrowing money. And that requires preparation and a methodical approach.

    It begins by identifying why the money is needed and the most appropriate loan to fulfill that need. It continues with finding a lender that offers optimal terms and fees for clients with the borrower’s credit score and financial resources and gathering documents the lender needs to review.

    Define the need: Businesses may need loans for daily operating expenses or to build reserves, renovate a commercial building or buy equipment. The specific need typically drives the decision about what type of loan to shop for. Some lenders underwrite just about any business need, while others specialize: The nonprofit Enchantment Land Certified

    Development Company, for example, specializes in loans for commercial, owner-occupied property and equipment.

  • Ins and outs of immigrants defined the U.S. since 1787

    The legal trails of immigration comprise many parts, to deal with persistent concerns. Since its inception, the nation has dealt with these concerns repeatedly in varying guises and combinations.

    Immigration issues that recur deal with jobs in one way or other and with the nature and quantity of immigrants and new citizens. Laws change as parties change course and populations grow.

    The two parts that are most distinctive are immigration and naturalization. The former refers to living and working here.

    The latter is a path to U.S. citizenship. Only citizens can vote and hold elective office.

    Today, becoming a citizen requires correctly answering six of 10 questions similar to these three:

    • What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?

    • There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.

    • Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.

    These questions are three of the 100 questions on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test. The full list is online at “civics questions for naturalization test.” Take in the stirring naturalization ceremony nearby at Bandelier held every Fourth of July.

  • Prison reform bill needs to to be rescued, broadened

    The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, published this editorial Aug. 28 on prison reform programs.

    A prison reform bill that passed the House with a strong bipartisan majority is slowly dying in the Senate. It must be rescued and broadened.

    The First Step Act focuses on ways to help federal prisoners prepare for a productive life once they leave prison and to support them in their search for employment.

    It is a thoughtful attempt to break the destructive cycle that results in more than half of federal prisoners returning to prison within a few years after their first release. Pilot programs have shown that recidivism can be sharply reduced by providing such support.

    The lone problem with the First Step Act is that it addresses only the 225,000 inhabitants of federal prisons. That is just 15 percent of the nation’s prison population. The bill doesn’t help the far more numerous inmates transitioning from state prisons and local jails. It should provide states with grants to encourage the establishment of similar prison-to-society assistance programs.