Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Modest Budget Bill Still Provokes Controversy In Divided Santa Fe, Plus: A Bad Idea For Our Small State And NM Oil Jobs May Be Past Peak 

It appears House Committee chairs Patrica Lundstrom and Carl Trujillo have bent over backwards to get a budget deal with the Republican Governor, but without getting obscene, we all know what happens when you bend over in front of this Governor.

The proposed budget for the year that starts July 1 and that came out of the Dem controlled House Appropriations Committee led by Lundstrom is flat as a pancake--fixing the budget at about $6.1 billion, about the same as the past year. The critical news is that the budget holds funding steady for the already hard hit public schools:

The $6.1 billion spending bill would maintain current overall funding levels for public schools, boost resources for the judiciary and restore money for business incentives linked to expansions and job training. That plan hinges on companion legislation that would raise $218 million in new revenues from a long list of taxes and fees. New revenues would come in large part from a tax-deduction overhaul for the health sector designed to raise more than $100 million and steeper charges for cross-state trucking permits. Smaller provisions include taxing online sales by out-of-state retailers and no longer exempting nonprofit groups from taxes on sales.

We'll have to peel the onion more,but on first glance--dare we say--this looks like one of the most eminently reasonable budget plans we have seen since the state was plunged into its ongoing budget crisis. What does that mean? It means the Governor will loathe the plan and pick a huge fight over this table scraps budget. So watch your behinds--err--we mean your backs, Reps. Lundstrom and Trujillo.


The $6.1 billion budget headed toward the House floor is the same amount as it was nearly ten years ago. The budget is as flatlined as this state's economy and its population growth.


Talk about a bad idea for a small state like ours:

The Senate has approved legislation adding New Mexico to an interstate compact aimed at guaranteeing the president — in future elections — would be elected by national popular vote. The measure, Senate Bill 42, passed the chamber on a party-line 26-16 vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

It's true that we no longer get the gobs of presidential campaign attention we did since we went deep blue and lost our swing state status. But Trump made two visits here last year and the Dems sent in high-powered surrogates, They did it because our five electoral votes are still significant to the national presidential puzzle. The attention helps in DC. Take it away and you get even less federal power. Not quite what you want to see in a state whose economy is so dependent on federal funding


We appear to have seen the historic peak in employment in the New Mexico oilfields, no matter how much prices may rebound in the future:

“People have left the industry, and they are not coming back,” said Michael Dynan, vice president at Schramm, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of drilling rigs. “If it’s a repetitive task, it can be automated, and I don’t need someone to do that. I can get a computer to do that.”

Indeed, computers now direct drill bits that were once directed manually. The wireless technology taking hold across the oil patch allows a handful of geoscientists and engineers to monitor the drilling and completion of multiple wells at a time — onshore or miles out to sea — and supervise immediate fixes when something goes wrong, all without leaving their desks. 

That means the days of $300 hotel rooms in Lea County during an oil boom are over and the population there will continue to retreat or stagnate.


Former UNM professor Connie Thorson writes of the talk of downsizing the state higher education system:

When I was active in university politics at UNM--over 25 years ago--a group of faculty met with legislative aides to discuss the continued expansion of higher education in NM. We all agreed that no more campuses should be developed or funded. Of course, our advice was ignored. And so the pieces of the higher ed pie got smaller and smaller. We saw part of the problem as the politicians or regents who wanted memorials to themselves. For example, how reasonable is the west side campus of UNM? My point is that down-sizing is not a concept readily embraced in NM by the administrators of the universities.

Anyway, I cannot imagine the UNM administration giving up one single vice president, associate or assistant vice president or dean or department head, not to mention office managers, secretaries, or student assistants. The possibility of any of the VP's or deans taking a salary cut is minuscule, in my opinion.

The proposed budget hearing toward the House floor calls for a 1 percent cut to the higher ed budget. That's on top of previous cuts approved by the Legislature.


So the city is going to put a new police substation at Kathryn and San Mateo in the crime infested SE Heights. Okay, so who is going to staff it when you are short over 200 officers? It's the cart before the horse problem. ABQ has plenty of police substations but if they stand as empty shells most of the time--as many do--it's like building a bridge to nowhere.

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