.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

Opinion

  • BY DOWD MUSKA
    Research director, Rio Grande Foundation

    Enjoying the new season of “Better Call Saul”? If not, you should be -- you’re paying for it.
    Annually, New Mexico’s taxpayers spend $50 million to “incentivize” film and television production in their state.

    Unfortunately, after shoveling more than half a billion dollars Hollywood’s way over the years, the Land of Enchantment has little to show for its generosity.

    The payoff from “investment” in the entertainment industry is dismal. Dozens of studies have been undertaken to determine the ratio of subsidization to tax-revenue generation. The Rio Grande Foundation has distilled the best research down to 14 analyses, conducted in states as varied as Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. All were performed by either legislative auditors or tax departments, and not one was issued by Hollywood consultants, economic-development/film bureaucracies, or ideological think tanks of any perspective. When taken as a whole, the 14 studies found the average “return” for a taxpayer dollar to be an appalling 23.6 cents.

  • The case of Augustin Plains Ranch LLC versus just about everybody else hit another rock early this month, when the State Engineer turned down – for the third time – the ranch’s application for a breathtaking amount of water.

    Speculative, said the hearing officer. Which is something opponents have said from the beginning. Opponents are so numerous the hearing officer had to designate who would speak or they would probably still be there testifying.

    The latest application faced opposition by groups that normally don’t sit on the same side of the table: the Catron County Commission, agricultural organizations, tribes, residents and environmentalists.

    Augustin Plains Ranch (APR) proposed to appropriate 54,000 acre-feet a year of groundwater from 37 wells for “municipal purposes and commercial sales” to parts of Catron, Sierra, Socorro, Valencia, Bernalillo, Sandoval, and Santa Fe counties.

    But APR doesn’t say who exactly will be the customer or how water will be used – information it also left out of previous applications. Without a user or a contract, it’s impossible to evaluate the application. APR claimed that New Mexico law doesn’t require it to have a contract.

  • BY GOV. JERRY APODOCA
    Former Governor of New Mexico

    Last week I had to ask my 10-year-old grandson what a meme was. He explained it’s a humorous video or image on social media. The reason I asked was I saw an image on social media that said, “Would JFK be a Democrat today?”

    It got me thinking, would he? I have always looked at myself as a JFK Democrat: pro-business with openness towards social issues and fairness for all New Mexicans. JFK once said, “if by a Democrat they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes that we can break through the stalemate...then I’m proud to say that I’m a “Democrat.”

    I would have to agree – that’s the kind of Democrat I am.  

    As a father, teacher, businessman, legislator and later as Governor of New Mexico, I lived my life this way. I ran an open government and made sure my office and party represented ALL New Mexicans. I am most proud to have opened doors for the first time to minorities that had never had a voice in state government.

  • Last summer, an Albuquerque charity shared its institutional conclusion that poverty is the problem in New Mexico.

    The charity misses the point, as do those writing heart-rending tales about awful things happening to children in our state. Poverty itself isn’t the problem; the many causes of poverty are the problems.

    New Mexico Voices for Children, a leftish lobbying group, drives a good part of the dialogue. A Voices paper, a “Blueprint for a Prosperous State,” says “public investment creates jobs,” which I guess is true in that people get paid for delivering the “investment.” But the private sector is the unmentioned detail. It’s the private guys who have ideas, hire people to deliver the ideas, and, along the way, create wealth and money to pay the taxes that finance that public investment.

    James X. Sullivan and Bruce D. Meyer, researchers at the University of Notre Dame write in the August 7 Wall Street Journal, “Poverty has declined significantly over the past 50 years.” Their report was released by the Council of Economic Advisors.

  • By LISA SHIN

    Republican, Candidate for New Mexico House of Representatives, Dist. 43

  • FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    Toby Rittner wants to help communities leverage their limited financial resources to solve the needs of business, industry, developers and investors.

    Rittner is CEO of the Council of Development Finance Agencies, a nonprofit organization that provides research, training and technical assistance to government entities that want to explore how bonds and other development financing tools can support and encourage public and private investment in infrastructure, redevelopment and other projects that benefit a community’s economy.

    Most people are familiar with general obligation (GO) bonds, which are used to finance public projects such as building or repairing roads, sewers, schools and water treatment facilities and to purchase essential equipment to meet public needs. When tax-exempt GO bonds are offered to investors, the revenue provides capital needed to pay for a project, and the governmental entity repays the debt, with interest, to investors.

    In a similar vein, private activity bonds (PABs) allow governments to act as conduits for private businesses that need to raise money to support their growth so they can bring jobs and prosperity to a community.  Governments issue PABs to accelerate a business’s growth and lower its cost of raising capital.

  • The notion that New Mexico should pay legislators a salary has been discussed many times. In 2016, a constitutional amendment was proposed to establish a salary, but wasn’t passed.

    Some observers think we’d get a better quality legislature. Maybe. But it’s not so simple.

    A salary would make it easier for intelligent, principled, civic minded individuals representing a broader range of backgrounds to seek elective office. It also could make legislative service attractive to some people who would want the job primarily for the money. Alas, New Mexico does have history of that. (Recall a past state auditor or two, for example.)

    New Mexico is the last state to have no salary for legislators. Our legislators receive per diem expenses tagged to the IRS rate for Santa Fe, currently $183 a day for the legislative session and interim committee meetings. Most legislators actually do have to stay in hotels and pay for lodging and expenses. (I’ll mention exceptions another time.)

    The 2016 amendment would have set legislators’ salaries to the state’s median household income, currently around $45,000. For 112 legislators, that totals a little more than $5 million a year. But the cost of a salary is never just the salary.

  • Negotiate” stirs up good business and bad political finagling. The word is a double-edged sword that is honed for cutting out debate. The word itself is its own counterpoint. 

    In politics, “negotiate” connotes the cowardice in gathering ideas by talking with others. Worse still is talking about making a deal, with all of its taking in and giving away. A rude synonym is “compromise of principles.” 

    With equal relevance, “negotiate” entails the bravery of making your own way across treacherous stretches to reach a worthy goal. An example is negotiating Death Valley in a covered wagon. A rude synonym is “defeat of barriers.” 

    “Negotiate” reflects the oddities of politics in more ways than one. First: little success comes without some give and take along the way. Second: in a democracy, it takes a brave and wise soul to negotiate (in both meanings) a path to a worthy goal on the nation’s agenda. 

  • FINANCE NEW MEXICO

    Small businesses are attuned to the risks they face when material costs and interest rates start to rise and competitors make inroads into their market share, but they’re not always conscious of less predictable but increasingly common risks, such as natural disasters. And they don’t always know about the resources available when their city or county is formally declared a disaster area and they become eligible for government assistance.

    In April, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared 12 New Mexico counties primary natural disaster areas due to drought-related crop losses. The declaration enabled qualified farm businesses to access USDA emergency loans. 

    Recent storm-induced flooding and power outages in Santa Fe led to a disaster declaration by the city, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent Preliminary Damage Assessment teams to assess the damage. The information will be used to determine if a Major Disaster Declaration will be issued, opening the door to federal resources and funding assistance for families and businesses.

  • We can all agree that we have an opioid problem in the state and the nation, but can we be sensible about solutions?

    Recently Dr. Richard Larson, executive vice chancellor of the UNM Health Sciences Center, recommended government-regulated restrictions on prescribing. In an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, he argued that “without strict government regulation, it won’t be solved.” His prescription? A three-day limit on outpatient prescriptions for acute pain and no opioids for adolescents.

    Do we really want a distant bureaucrat overruling the judgment of our doctors?

    The following week, the New Mexico Medical Board revoked the license of Dr. Walter Seidel Jr., forcing him to close his family practice in Ruidoso. The board took issue with the way he prescribed controlled substances and said he refused to cooperate with the board’s investigation. They declared him a danger to the public.

    Maybe the board had good reason to end Seidel’s practice – I don’t know the details of the investigation – but his comment to the Albuquerque Journal was one I’ve heard before: “Look at all the patients in New Mexico who have chronic pain and are not being treated appropriately by their doctors because those physicians are afraid of the medical board.”

  • By Thomas Biuso, M.D.
    Senior Medical Director, United Healthcare of New Mexico

    A glass of wine with dinner, a few beers with work friends – drinking is not going to hurt you unless you overdo it. Right?

    It’s hard to say. New research shows even moderate alcohol use may have serious health outcomes.

    One recent study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, analyzed the correlation moderate drinking has with risk of death and also the potential for developing cancer. Researchers found the risk of death increased for those who consumed one to five drinks per week. The study also found consuming five to seven drinks per week increased risk of cancer by 10 percent.

    This study highlights the potential health risks associated with drinking, even when alcohol consumption falls within the guidelines set by the U.S. government. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion considers safe consumption to be up to one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men.

  • By Arthur A. Garcia
    USDA Rural Development, New Mexico State Director

    Not long ago, the United States was a world leader in infrastructure investments. Federal and private funding helped even the most remote communities obtain electricity, running water and access to the rest of the world through telecommunications. 

    However, recent years have not followed the same trend, and too many rural communities have been left behind. The need for improvement is great, especially for rural water and wastewater systems. 

    To put this in perspective, the American Water Works Association estimates that more than $600 billion is needed over the next 20 years to upgrade our nation’s water and wastewater systems. Unfortunately, many small and rural water systems lack access to affordable financing.

  • BY STAN COOPER
    AARP volunteer and New Mexico Association board member

    Most of us take for granted that we can wake up each day, get in our car, drive to work, drive home, drive to the grocery store or to a movie, and get wherever we want to go. But for some of us, the time will come when we can no longer drive a car and we must give up the keys.

    The loss of a vehicle can often lead to cases of isolation, which causes a decrease in physical activity, and mental engagement. People are no longer able to participate in everyday activities like visiting friends, going to social events or church because they no longer have a way to get there. Individuals can’t rely on friends and family to make up the difference because they have their own lives and schedules.

    For these individuals, public transportation will provide a vital role toward keeping older adults connected and engaged in their communities.

  • The last couple of weeks conservatives have gotten drunk on the idea that the possibility of a blue wave was looking more like a blue puddle because of a tightening of poll numbers in the generic congressional polls. Well this last week has been a conservative hangover, as day after day delivered bad news for the GOP.

    More primaries have come and gone, and more moderates and traditional conservatives lost to populists. Here in the DMV, Corey Stewart, a candidate that claimed to be more Trump than Trump and had connections to all the worst actors in Republican politics bested Libertarian state delegate Nick Freitas and Pastor E.W. Jackson, drastically hurting Virginian Republicans down the ballot. Barbara Comstock in Northern Virginia had her congressional seat move from a toss-up to leans Democratic because of the nomination of Stewart.

    As the week progressed a reckoning in the youth movement of the party happened, Turning Point USA had several scandals including one of their main spokesperson making awful comments about the #MeToo movement, the leaking of chat logs where leaders of TPUSA were attempting to get their own members to not talk about the scandal, former employees making accusations about faking their numbers, and alleged cover up of misconduct that happened at events.

  • It’s a human thing, I think, that nearby things and people get less attention. So it was for the Fort Sumner Historic Site/Bosque Redondo Memorial and George Dodge Jr., a Santa Rosa businessman. Then Dodge, a Democrat, became a state representative. With De Baca County, home to the Bosque Redondo Memorial, in his district, Dodge’s perspective changed.

    Dodge shared the story on a hot Saturday, June 9, at the memorial, as part of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the June 1, 1868, signing of the treaty releasing Navajos from the concentration camp (today’s common term), allowing them to go home, and establishing the Navajo Nation.

    For the Navajo Nation, 2018 is the Year of the Treaty.

    June was full of commemoration events at Window Rock and other locations.

    One of three treaty documents is now displayed at the Memorial, which is seven miles southeast of Fort Sumner. It’s a big deal; it’s important.

    Navajos came to Bosque Redondo as prisoners of war, rounded up by soldiers led by Col. Kit Carson. Carson also got some of the Mescalero Apache people to Bosque Redondo, though without the scorched earth campaign conducted against the Navajos.

  • BY ASHA KEDDY
    Vice President, Technology, Systems Architecture & Client Group and General Manager of Next Generation and Standards, Intel Corporation

    Just six short months ago, I remarked that the finalization of the Non-Standalone 5G New Radio represented “One Small Step for 5G, One Giant Step for Wireless ” – noting that, with the announcement of the common standard, the real innovation was just beginning. Today, I’m excited to say that the industry has not just taken more steps to advance the future of 5G, but has gone from a walk to a jog to a run, and is now in a full-blown sprint to commercialization, as the 3GPP Release 15, Standalone (SA) 5G NR standard is finalized.

    Intel has been uniquely positioned at the forefront of these conversations – providing essential technological inputs and leveraging global partnerships to push testing and implementation of standards-based technologies.

    We’re also working with operators and manufacturers worldwide, to drive a wholesale transformation of the network infrastructure required to deliver 5G experiences to a flexible, agile and virtualized architecture powered by Intel computing technologies.

  • The Post and Courier of Charleston published this editorial June 13.

    The trade war with Canada over steel, aluminum and milk understandably grabs the headlines. But flying under the radar is the battle over Canadian newsprint, a skirmish that’s hurting businesses and costing jobs.

    In January, the U.S. Commerce Department, responding to a complaint from a New York private equity firm that bought a Washington state mill, imposed a 6.2 percent tariff on imports of Canadian newsprint, then added another 22 percent in March. And U.S. newspapers, to put it mildly, are suffering mightily.

    That’s why a group of newspaper executives will travel to Washington, D.C., this week to try to persuade lawmakers to get the Commerce Department to back off. The tariff already has prompted layoffs – newsprint is typically a newspaper’s biggest operating cost behind labor – and caused some newspapers to reduce their number of pages.

    Thousands of U.S. newspaper jobs are hanging in the balance.

    The Washington state paper mill employs fewer than 300 people. Like some other recent tariffs, the cure is worse than the disease.

  • Living in Washington in 2018 has almost felt like living in a book club. The fascination around Donald Trump’s presidency has overtaken the city and has a lot of residents asking how did we get here? From the lines at Starbucks, conversations on the metro, or the halls of George Washington University. There isn’t a place in the DMV where this topic isn’t being discussed. Heck, even on a tour of an apartment I did, I got sucked into a two-hour conversation about Trump just because I discussed what I did for a living. To answer these questions many in the beltway have turned to books, on the Metro, I’d see book covers with titles that attack the president.

    The two gossipy books about Trump that I still see on the subway every now and then, and by the cash register at the CVS, are, of course, Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” and James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty.”

    Apart from the Harry Potter books from my childhood and the Bibles in church, I have never seen more people in the wild reading the same book as these two books in the Washington Metro area. Even I bought into the hype, and the Wolff book lives in my kindle to this very day.

  • 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.