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Opinion

  • The Wall Street Journal published this editorial June 12.

    More than a few conservative intellectuals have warmed to Donald Trump’s trade protectionism because it supposedly helps blue-collar Americans. But what if his tariffs do the opposite?

    Erica York at the Tax Foundation crunched some numbers recently showing that Mr. Trump’s proposal for a 25 percent tariff on imported cars, trucks and parts could eliminate half of the income gains from tax reform for millions of Americans. Those in the lowest income quintile could lose 49 percent of their tax gains. Say for ease of calculation that these folks received a $100 after-tax bonus from changes like the doubled standard deduction. After auto tariffs that would be whittled down to $51, Ms. York notes.

    The tariffs shave gains in all income brackets, but no one is hurt more than the poor and middle class. Take the fourth income quintile, or a household making at most about $70,000 a year in adjusted gross income. The Tax Foundation says auto tariffs could erase nearly 30 percent of that family’s after-tax income bump. Ditto for the third quintile, or a family earning no more than $43,000 a year.

  • If you’re a political moderate and feel your choices in the coming election are pretty darn limited, a lot of people feel your pain.

    The recent primaries bestowed victories on women. (Hurray!) They also blessed progressives and conservatives and left moderates in the dust.

    In the much-watched Congressional District 1 race, progressive Deb Haaland trounced Damon Martinez, a moderate and former U. S. Attorney.

    For State Land Commissioner, Stephanie Garcia Richard, another progressive, surged ahead of her opponents. George Muñoz, a businessman and moderate Democrat from Gallup, ran third, but the good news is he’ll still be in the state Senate.

    In Northern New Mexico, Rep. Debbie Rodella, a moderate who served 25 years, lost to a progressive newcomer, Susan Herrera. Rodella, chair of the Business and Industry Committee, had campaign money; Herrera had volunteers and shoe leather.

    On the Public Regulation Commission, moderate Dem Sandy Jones lost to progressive Steve Fischmann, a former Las Cruces legislator. And Lynda Lovejoy lost to Theresa Becenti-Aguilar, who previously held the seat. These two races were affected in part by a backlash against an industry super PAC donations to both.

  • Joshua Grassham recognized a novel approach to supporting small business financing when he saw one. The vice president of commercial lending at Lea County State Bank in Hobbs was the first New Mexico banker to secure a client’s loan through a new state program to help collateral-poor businesses.

    The New Mexico Economic Development Department (EDD) introduced the Credit Enhancement Program (CEP) earlier this year as a way to help businesses, especially startups, by purchasing short-term certificates of deposit that businesses can use as collateral for larger loans. 

    Grassham closed his first loan in February on behalf of a longtime customer who wanted to start his own business serving the oil and gas industry. The customer had good credit and a sound business plan, but he lacked sufficient collateral to support his startup loan. The CEP loan bridged that gap.

    Grassham has two more CEP loans in the pipeline – one for a new restaurant and the other for a senior care facility.

    Temporary support

  • When I started as a volunteer tutor four years ago, I wondered if I had the know-how to help a first grader catch up with his peers in reading. When school ended this year, I wondered if I’d need to throw myself on top of my student in the event of an active shooter.

    The answers are yes and not yet. The program prepared us for one but not the other.  

    When I started, I, like all the other school volunteers, simply wanted to help. But I also wanted to learn because schools are much in the news, and I write about them. It’s been a fine adventure.

    I learned that one little guy who doesn’t like reading but does like sports overcame his reluctance to read when offered books about sports at his reading level. Books like these are somewhat scarce, and for Hispanic athletes, they’re nonexistent, so at times I just wrote my own stories from web information about the lives of athletes. I leave in the hard stuff like divorce and poverty because my students experience both.

  • BY BILLY GARRETT
    Lieutenant governor candidate, guest opinion

    Last October I announced my candidacy for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket. In the months since then I’ve been asked many times, “What does the lieutenant governor do?”

    The lieutenant governor has a complex workload based on a combination of statutory responsibilities, standing within the executive branch, and personal initiative.

    Statutory responsibilities are clear. The lieutenant governor serves as president of the Senate, sits on eight boards and commissions, and has been designated as the “Ombudsman of the People of New Mexico.” In addition, the lieutenant governor takes over as the state’s chief executive when the governor is out of state or the position becomes vacant.

    Serving as the Senate president is not the same as being an elected legislator. The Senate president does not serve on any legislative committees, introduce legislation, or vote – except to break a tie. Instead, the lieutenant governor ensures that Senate proceedings move smoothly and that all members are treated with respect. While the role can be seen as largely ceremonial, it provides a personal connection between legislators and the governor’s office that could be valuable on critical issues.

  • In war-time New Mexico, what were crowds so eager to see that they spent $700,000 for a glimpse?

    The story begins in Japan in 1938 with the launch of that nation’s first midget submarines. They were 81 feet long, 6 feet in diameter, and armed with two torpedoes. Powered by a 600-horsepower electric motor, they had a speed of 19 to 23 knots , but at full power the sub’s battery was only good for 55 minutes.

    On Dec. 7, 1941, five of the diminutive subs joined the attack on Pearl Harbor. After riding piggyback on large subs, they launched near the harbor entrance the night before the attack. Their mission was to attack war ships and then rendezvous with the mother ships or blow themselves up next to a war ship. They began prowling before the air attack, but none of them would do any damage that day.

    One of the five, Ha-19, had a malfunctioning gyrocompass. It hit a coral reef several times and ran aground. When a U. S. ship spotted the little sub, it fired, knocking it off the reef. The sub dived, and its crew tried again to complete their mission but damage prevented them from firing one torpedo. More attacks from the now-alerted fleet caused more damage that kept Ha-19 from firing its second torpedo, and fumes overcame the crew members. The little sub drifted.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.  

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.  

  •  
    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).

  • 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.

  • BY TIMOTHY A. GLASCO
    Utilities Manager, Department of Public Utilities

    On April 10, the Board of Public Utilities and the County Council will convene to consider approval of a Power Sales Contract (PSC) with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) organization, to continue our participation in the Carbon Free Power Project. This will be the world’s first small modular nuclear reactor power generation plant.

    Located in Idaho, this 600MW facility is scheduled to be operational by 2027. Over the past four years, a fatal flaw analysis was conducted and the project was discussed at numerous meetings with the public, BPU and County Council.

    Now is the time to decide if we continue in the project or withdraw, prior to the development of a combined operating licensing application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  

    Why is the county interested in this nuclear generating plant project, and why now?  

  • The battle of regulation – pitting powers outside ourselves against desires inside ourselves – began with the first glimmer of society. Railing against regulation continues to be popular. Today, patterned gripes are printed on tee shirts and sold online. The Babel of regulation grows from there and clutters the news.

    All humans are born with a dislike for regulation, which stays with us. The need for regulation is no less persistent, as is clear in history’s timeline of regulation.

    An early form of regulating was sticks and stones. In due course, this beginning evolved into peer pressure within small groups and hence to tribal customs among clans.

    The world grew more crowded and regulatory themes began to spread among the tendrils of religion. Religious teachings have long sought to restrict damaging deeds, using a potent mixture of fire and brimstone to promote self-responsibility. The Pilgrims enlisted religion as a regulatory aid to succeed in their Plymouth ventures. Laxity is perilous.

    In today’s crowds that have little else in common, people mostly look to a government to be the chief enforcer. This choice is expensive in many ways. It starts bureaucracy, which inspires catchy gripes that sell well on tee shirts.