Most of the media’s attention has been focused on the ongoing scandal at the top of Albuquerque Public Schools. Unfortunately, an issue with much larger long-term ramifications was voted on by the APS board – minus Peggy Muller-Aragon, who opposed the move.
The issue is of course paying district employees “political pay” for serving in the Legislature. Apparently, a majority of the board recognized an opportunity to increase its influence in Santa Fe at taxpayer expense.
Currently, four legislators are employed by the school district. Those include Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque; Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque; and Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Rio Rancho. Unlike the others, Lewis has not accepted his pay as a teacher in recent years when serving in Santa Fe and presumably will continue to do the same despite the district’s move.
This is a classic case of a taxpayer-funded entity working to further its own political interests at the expense of those who pay the bills. After all, APS already has lobbyists patrolling the halls in Santa Fe, why not add a few more APS-paid legislators into the mix when it comes time to vote on education budgets?
Despite (or perhaps because of) the latest bailout, Greece remains deeply-troubled. The crisis has manifested itself due to Europe’s single currency, the Euro. Greece cannot pay its bills, but because of the Euro, it cannot devalue its currency either. So a series of bailouts and “austerity” measures have been imposed.
This is a quick synopsis of the Greek situation, but what are the parallels for New Mexico?
In July of 2011, The Economist magazine noted one interesting parallel when an article “Greek Americans” noted which U.S. states are most reliant on transfers from Washington for fiscal support. According to the article, New Mexico was the most reliant U.S. state in the nation by far.
It is true that unlike Greece, the U.S. has a long-standing single fiscal policy and a culture (200+ years) of unified action. Greece could easily leave or be kicked out of the currency union after only a few decades of unity. That is not likely to happen to New Mexico.
I was recently in Las Cruces and had a chance to sit down with Fred Martino of KRWG (the public television station in Las Cruces) to discuss what happened in the 2015 legislative session and special session. Las Cruces area state Representative Bill McCamley, a Democrat, was also on the air and, believe it or not, we found a few areas of agreement.
Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing recently sat down with KNAT TV to discuss the results of the 2015 special legislative session and its passage of a capital outlay bill and a small tax cut package.
Happy New Fiscal Year. Ready for higher taxes?
Starting July 1, furniture, haircuts, toys, shoes, lawn care, and milkshakes will be more expensive for most New Mexicans. The gross receipts tax (GRT), the dominant source of local-government revenue, will rise in many communities, including Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Las Cruces, Roswell, Las Vegas, Deming, and Silver City.
In Santa Fe, the rate is slated to increase from 8.1875 percent to 8.3125 percent. But not if the city has its way. A few weeks ago, the City Different filed a taxpayer-friendly lawsuit to block the GRT hike the county adopted in March. Citing state statutes, Santa Fe -- as well as Española and several local businesses -- allege that "within the boundaries" of incorporated Santa Fe County municipalities, the tax should not apply.
It's up to the courts to decide the validity of the lawsuit. What's not in dispute is that the the city-county faceoff would not exist were it not for governors' and legislators' never-ending tinkering with the GRT. When Santa Fe's commissioners adopted the one-eight-of-a-cent tax increase three months ago, it was justified as a way to raise money to compensate for funds the state would no longer provide. The soon-to-be-ended subsidy was created to ease the fiscal pain of the 2005 removal of groceries from the GRT.
New Mexico businessman and entrepreneur Steve McKee was the keynote speaker at a recent Rio Grande Foundation luncheon. He gave an optimistic and detailed talk about the ways in which New Mexico policymakers can turn our state around and even beat Texas in the process. Check out the informative and even inspirational talk below:
The price of roads and schools just went up in New Mexico. New Mexico is already a mini-"Davis-Bacon" state which means that taxpayers pay substantially more (or get 10-15% less) in the way of schools, roads, and other state-funded projects (like those funded in the recently-passed capital outlay bill). Under Gov. Bill Richardson, legislation was passed that increased the labor premium under "Davis-Bacon" for public works projects. The Martinez Administration had been attempting to soften the blow of that legislation, but the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled this week that her actions were illegal.
I recently wrote a column discussing New Mexico's flawed capital funding process and how repeal of our "Davis-Bacon" law is key to improving our school buildings and roads. The article appeared at both Watchdog and NMPolitics.net.
Infrastructure and how to pay for it has been a topic of great interest recently. The Legislature returned to Santa Fe with the primary purpose of passing a capital outlay bill. Also, as David Abbey, Chair of the Public School Capital Outlay Council told legislators in testimony recently, New Mexico’s schools were facing serious funding problems.
Among Abbey’s concerns was the volatility of funding due to oil and gas prices. Abbey also said there are more needed projects than available funding. Abbey’s most newsworthy statement was that there are 16 schools that are in such poor shape they need to be torn down.
Notably, the problem is not inadequate spending. According to data from the National Education Association, New Mexico’s per-capita capital spending on K-12 schools was 7th-highest in the nation for the most recent school year on record.