Wednesday, July 06, 2016
Some Familiar Names "Under Review" As Fallout From Shake-Up At UNM Health Sciences Continues; New Hospital Still In Limbo, Plus: "Throwing Money" At Education
And another name that pops out on the list is Health Sciences PR guru Billy Sparks. Remember him? He was the top press aide to Dem Gov. Richardson before getting the UNM job which at the time caused a storm of controversy.
UNM Health Sciences, which runs the medical school, the UNM hospital, the cancer center etc., was the recent target of a successful, hostile takeover by the UNM Regents and UNM President Bob Frank.
One of the reasons given for the coup of the former board and it being replaced by the Regents was the reluctance of Health Sciences to share $50 million of its $220 million in cash reserves with the state to make up for the shortfall in Medicaid funding. And then there's the plan to use much of that reserve to build a new and bigger UNM hospital which privately owned Lovelace Health is not so pleased about. Now, in the aftermath of the takeover, UNM Prez Frank (and the Regents) are conducting "a review" of 26 UNM positions. That seems fine as long as no one is being targeted for their politics.
PUBLIC VS. PRIVATE
So what's this ultimately all about? Is the Governor and her media allies fighting to prevent the public health sector---UNM Health Sciences--from becoming the dominant player in the health care market of the future here? That seems to be pretty much it, but it has split the Governor's own GOP apart with Lt. Gov. John Sanchez questioning on his Facebook page how the UNM Regents went about executing the Health Sciences board coup.
Then there's the long-running concern of ER overcrowding at the UNM hospital which in the past has reached scandalous proportions, with patients waiting 12 hours or longer to be seen. We need an updated 21st century public hospital that will see us through the coming decades. Lovelace Health may not even be here in its present incarnation given its rocky management history and the fast-changing health-care landscape. We do know that public health care--Medicaid and Medicare--will be here and so will UNM. Lovelace could help by backing the new hospital and urging Gov. Martinez to assist in bringing it about.
THE NEW GUY
The majority of the five Regents are owned lock, stock and barrel by the Governor (as was the case under Big Bill). In fact, the Guv's newest appointee to the five member board is Tom Clifford who recently left his position s cabinet secretary for the Department of Finance and Administration. Now Frank and the Regents have his budget cutting prowess at their disposal. Given Clifford's history of disdain for a robust public sector, getting that new hospital built just met another obstacle.
By the way, we said to watch Ryan Cangiolosi's position closely when we first blogged of the UNM shake- up. And we're still watching.
Reader "Crocagator" writes of our Tuesday blog on the state's budget crunch:
Joe, I am still wondering what has happened to the billions of dollars of infrastructure money that is supposedly waiting for the Governor to give the go ahead to. This would put hundreds of people to work who in turn would spend money and pay taxes. This may not be a long term help for our state's economy but every little bit helps.
It's true that the state auditor reported last year that there is $4.5 billion in unspent money in Santa Fe, but much if it is already committed or otherwise legally inaccessible for economic stimulation. There are, however, millions that could be sent into the economy, if there is the legislative will to do so. But it may be too late. Any available funds and more may be eaten up by the ongoing budget crisis. Meanwhile, what the heck is a "Crockagator?"
THROWING THE MONEY
At our recent Kids Count Conference, I asked the room of nearly 400 attendees to raise their hands if they had ever spent money on activities such as music lessons, team sports, preschool or a tutor for a child or grandchild. Then I asked if any of them would characterize that spending as “throwing money at the problem.” People laughed because they know this spending is an investment in their children’s futures to help them be successful. Success is something we should want for all children.
Here's a reader who has an alternate funding plan for very early childhood education:
It's time for NM to legalize and tax marijuana and dedicate the revenues to early childhood education programs. This would provide much needed funding for programs that have proven to be effective. This would also avoid having to tap the Permanent Fund and potentially sacrificing the funds contribution to future generations. Given the bleak revenue picture additional general fund appropriations to early childhood education may be hard to come by. This is an alternative path forward and those opposed to legal marijuana may come around if they are assured the proceeds will go to early childhood programs. Another twist on legalization of marijuana could be requiring a high school diploma, as well as an age limit, in order to purchase it. Something to incentivize high school graduation in New Mexico couldn’t hurt. If you need a tag line, we can call it “Puffin for Proficiency: The more you burn, the more they learn.”
Or how about "Gettin' high to get them by?"
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2016