Thursday, January 21, 2016
Roundhouse Seems Out Of Touch As Oil Crash Continues, Plus: City Different Seems Indifferent Over Santa Fe Budget Crisis, And: StateHeroin Scourge Highlighted
Oil prices crashed through the $27 a barrel level Wednesday as Santa Fe dickers over an array of crime bills that really have no business in a 30 day legislative session that the Constitution mandates mainly for budget-related matters.
Oil prices are some $20 a barrel below the state's forecast for the budget year that begins July 1. Each dollar drop per barrel costs the general fund $15 million. (That's a new and higher estimate). You can see the trouble ahead, if prices don't recover much in the next year.
In fact, NMSU economist Jim Peach told Santa Fe:
I would simply count on no new money.
That would mean reverting from a $6.5 billion proposed budget to one around $6.2 billion. That's no increase unless you go into the reserves.
Peach has been accurately bearish on the New Mexican economy and telling it like it is. For his no BS stance we are adding Peach to our list of "No Bullshit Economists" who are essential to get a true understanding of the striking changes in the state economy. He joins his NMSU colleague Dr. Chris Erickson on the list as well as several others.
Congratulations or something, Jim.
So what should Santa Fe be doing?
How about arguing over much we should take down the state reserves of some $600 million to make up for the oil crash, if need be? What about a special debate over repealing tax exemptions that mainly benefit out of state corporations to make up some lost revenue? What about an intense examination of that $1 billion in capital outlay State Auditor Keller says has been appropriated but not spent?
Throw in the driver's license debacle and that's plenty for the lawmakers to do. But as we've said time and again, when you get a political consultant running the government, you don't get governing, you get a permanent campaign. And that's why it's all crime all the time.
NOT ONLY OIL
It's not only oil. There's this revenue plunge reported this month by the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC):
General fund revenue through October 2015 is tracking short of fiscal year (FY) 2016 projections, with actual revenue collections through the fourth month of the fiscal year indicating that total FY 2016. . . revenues could be off by an estimated $52.7 million. The (LFC) monthly general fund tracking report, based on actual revenue receipts through October, estimates that total FY 2016 revenue will be $6.118 billion, 0.9% less than projected in the revenue forecast released in early December. The largest decline in actual revenues was seen in gross receipts and compensating tax collections, which came in well below estimates, an indication that revenue for the general sales category could be off by $43.4 million by the end of the fiscal year.
Then there's that Martinez & Martinez (Gov. Martinez and then-House Speaker Ken Martinez) corporate income tax cut that came with the promise it would create gobs of jobs. It didn't and it has cost the state tens of millions more in lost revenue than anticipated.
So, budget session anyone?
Meanwhile, in Santa Fe where a secular change in tourism combined with state government job vacancies has permanently changed the city's economy, there is drift over how to deal with it. No one seems to be able to face up to the budget crisis, including Mayor Javier Gonzales who jetted off to DC for a conference while befuddled city councilors met to mull over the big $15 million budget gap for the small city of 70,000.
The councilors kicked the can around and decided not to decide. Maybe they're waiting for the Mayor? Gonzales doesn't seem very anxious to lay out a plan. But he is embracing ABQ Mayor Berry's proposal to allow double-dipping so ABQ and other cities can hire more cops. Why Gonzales is involving himself in ABQ's mess when he has one at his own front door adds bemusement to the befuddlement that now surrounds the City Different.
(A consultant to Mayor Gonzales says he was incorrectly quoted in the ABQ newspaper as supporting double-dipping. They say he is undecided and have asked the newspaper to run a correction.)
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If the Republicans are really that adamant about having a crime session, why don't they look at this and find some money for treatment and prevention, not just jail cells?
From the NYT on New Mexico's status as one of the worst states for heroin addiction:
Heroin addiction has been “passed down from generation to generation in small cities around New Mexico,” said Jennifer Weiss-Burke, executive director of Healing Addiction in Our Community, a nonprofit group formed to curb heroin addiction. “I've heard stories of grandparents who have been heroin users for years, and it is passed down to younger generations; it’s almost like a way of life.”
Dr. Michael Landen, the state epidemiologist, said the state recently began grappling with prescription opioids. Addictions have shifted to younger people and to more affluent communities.
Ms. Weiss-Burke, whose son died from a heroin overdose in 2011, said it was much harder to treat young people. “Some young people are still having fun and they don’t have the desire to get sober, so they end up cycling through treatment or end up in jail,” she said. “When you go right back to the same environment, it’s hard to stay clean,” she said. “Heroin craving continues to haunt a person for years.”
THE BOTTOM LINES
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