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Today's Opinions

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Nominating petitions: Outdated path to the ballot

    BY REP. ALONZO BALDONADO
    New Mexico House of Representatives, Dist.  8

    The pathway to the ballot in New Mexico starts with a nominating petition.  Every other year in the late fall and winter, voters are approached by well-meaning volunteers armed with clipboards asking, “Excuse me ma’am, are you registered to vote?” and “Are you a Democrat or Republican?” in the hope of collecting enough valid signatures to qualify their candidate for the election.

    All candidates must submit these forms, including incumbents. It never fails that a potential candidate or two will have minor technical issues with their forms. Sometimes it is a missed middle initial. Or perhaps the district number was left off of a page.

    Cue the lawsuits! Partisan interests rush to district court to file complaints for the removal of the opposition from the ballot with the goal of clearing the field for their preferred candidate.

    This legal gambit can create an easy path to office for the remaining candidate, but is this how we want elections to be decided? Is this how our democratic process should work?

  • #MeToo complicates workplace interactions with men and women

    In my husband’s workplace, years ago, a woman who was clueless about appropriate professional attire showed up day after day in tube tops. Men in the office begged female co-workers to take her aside and ask her to stop wearing the clingy apparel because it was distracting. Maybe for the wearer, that was the point. Nobody worked up the courage to speak, so her daily display continued.

    (Laugh if you want at Hillary’s pantsuits, but for women of a certain age, the pantsuit solved a lot of problems.)

    The tube top episode shows that most men in the workplace are decent people, and men and women work together just fine as long as everybody observes common sense codes of behavior. It’s something to remember as we navigate the turbulent waters of #MeToo.

    After taking down some big players in entertainment, politics and media, the MeToo movement has paused. I’m hearing two parallel debates. A few brave feminists are starting to question the treatment of men in some of these cases – not all piggish behavior is equal – and some men, especially older men, are feeling uncomfortable and unsure of themselves in workplace interactions.  

  • Letters to the Editor

    New Nuclear Security chief comment at LANL was ridiculous

    Dear Editor,

    “Los Alamos was established to develop a scientific solution to win World War II.” Give me a break! This Gordon-Hagerty language appears to be just a sop to the Trump Administration with its plan to increase R&D on nuclear weapons, preparatory to a planned increase in the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. 

    It would have been more accurate to recall that Los Alamos was established to deal with World War II related strategic problems by creating weapons of mass-destruction, which would be used to launch terror attacks on cities filled with non-combatants, in what were arguably acts of genocide. 

    The Nazis, too, had created a scientific (final) solution to World War II related political problems, and this solution was indisputably genocidal. Ergo: beware of “scientific solutions” to political problems, and/or to problems of military strategy.

    Ken LaGattuta

    Española

  • Entrepreneurial orbit: Businesses at heart of resource expo

    BY HOLLY BRADSHAW-EAKES

    Finance New Mexico

    Once a business gets its foot inside the door with an economic development organization like the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), its opportunities for growth expand dramatically. Jack Kloepfer discovered this while navigating his Aztec, New Mexico, business beyond the line of outdoor recreation products he built from thermoplastic-coated fabrics and into products for energy and aerospace industries. The company’s relationship with New Mexico MEP has led to others, including the New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program (NMSBA), the Small Business Development Center at San Juan College in Farmington and the New Mexico Economic Development Department, where Jack’s Plastic Welding CEO Errol Baade hopes to find capital to expand production space.

  • State population gains a little but people are still leaving

     
    The grey of population loss travels the East Side from Lea County to Colfax and the West from San Juan County to Hidalgo. In between is a light thread of slight population gain along the Rio Grande. 

    Overall, New Mexico’s population grew by 2,638 for the 2016-2017 year. The 1.1 percent increase brought us to 2,088,070 New Mexicans, a gain of 23,463 since 2010, the year of the last census. Bernalillo (+14,241) and Sandoval (+10,929) counties, two of metro Albuquerque’s four counties, more than accounted for the state’s seven-year population gain with 25,166 more people. 

    Doña Ana County (+6,357) and Santa Fe (+4,533) together added fewer people than did Sandoval County. Together these four counties grew by 36,056 over seven years. The 26 rural counties plus metro Farmington (San Juan County) together lost 59,519 people. That’s like eliminating Eddy County (56,997) population and making up most of the rest by dumping DeBaca County (1,829).

  • Water conservation should extend beyond times of drought

    BY AUBREY DUNN
    State Land Commissioner, Guest Editorial

    A report recently published in the Albuquerque Journal revealed that nearly 99 percent of New Mexico is in extreme, severe or moderate drought.  Long before the report was issued, we at the State Land Office (SLO) have been acting with great urgency to protect New Mexico water and I have implemented long-term water conservation initiatives.

    The volumes of water the oil and gas industry use is prolific. Of the 13 million acres of mineral estate managed by the SLO, 3 million acres are leased for oil and gas development. Oil and gas activity on state trust lands generates 92 percent of the agency’s annual revenues, most of which supplements the operating budgets of public schools, therefore the industry’s investment in New Mexico is critical to our mission. However, while revenues are soaring, we are taking action to ensure the state has adequate fresh water supplies.