House Votes To Restore Spending, NM Democrats Back More School Funding

May 24, 2017

New Mexico House Votes To Restore SpendingThe Associated Press

Legislation that reinstates funding for New Mexico's universities and colleges as well as the Legislature itself has been approved by the House of Representatives.

The Democratic-led House voted 46-20 Wednesday to restore some $765 million in general fund spending that was previously vetoed by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Restoration of the funding for the upcoming fiscal year is likely to depend on support for companion revenue increases from internet sales, taxes on nonprofit hospitals and suspended infrastructure projects. Martinez vetoed $350 million in tax and fee increases in April.

House Panel Votes To Reinstate Education FundsThe Associated Press

Legislation that reinstates funding for New Mexico's universities and colleges as well as the Legislature itself has cleared its first hurdle.

Members of the House Appropriations Committee voted mostly along party lines in favor of restoring some $765 million in funding that was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez as part of a budget dispute following the regular legislative session earlier this year.

Restoration of the funding for the upcoming fiscal year is partly dependent on approval of a separate measure that aims to raise revenues by closing tax loopholes and instating new taxes for online purchases.

Another House committee endorsed that bill on Wednesday as lawmakers kicked off a special session focused on resolving a state budget crisis.

New Mexico Democrats Back More School FundingThe Associated Press

Democratic state lawmakers in New Mexico are proposing to increase per-student funding to public schools by $15 in the fall.

Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque announced the plan Wednesday to increase spending on public schools across the state by $10 million. She said the spending will be offset by a variety of state revenue increases without offering more specifics.

National teachers union officials joined a rally and news conference Wednesday at the New Mexico state Capitol in a show of force as lawmakers convened to resolve a state budget crisis.

A $6.1 billion spending bill approved by the Legislature in March would slightly increase state funding to public schools in the coming fiscal year after a series of spending cuts and withdrawals from district cash reserves. Spending on education could be revised as lawmakers rewrite taxation and spending bills in an effort to balance the state budget.

University Of New Mexico Athletics Under Fire For Golf TripThe Associated Press, KRQE and The ABQ Journal

The head of the University of New Mexico's athletics department is drawing criticism as more details emerge about the use of public money for a 2015 golf trip to Scotland.

Athletics director Paul Krebs has said the $65,000 trip was meant to strengthen relationships with donors, but critics have said it should have been paid for by the university's independent fundraising arm, not with athletic department money.

UNM and other state universities and colleges have been forced to consider tuition increases and other cuts as the state grapples with a budget crisis.

Albuquerque television station KRQE reported this week that Krebs revealed public money was used to pay for the trips of at least three boosters.

University spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair tells the Albuquerque Journal that possible discipline against Krebs is being considered.

New Mexico Program Will Help Prosecutors Prioritize CasesThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

New Mexico law enforcement departments say they've created a most dangerous offender list to help them prioritize criminal prosecutions.

The Albuquerque Journal reports officials had announced on Tuesday the new "Analysis-Led Recidivism Team."

Once a suspect that's part of the program is arrested, an alert will be sent to prosecutors so they can prioritize the case from the first appearance through the judgment and sentencing.

Some defendants will be targeted for a vigorous prosecution because they are accused of crimes that are spiking around the county.

New Mexico Public Service Company Sends New Rate ProposalThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

Public Service Company of New Mexico has submitted a new rate proposal after having an earlier one rejected.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the proposal had been sent to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission Tuesday. The previous proposal had been rejected by the commission because it wouldn't have affected all customers equally and would have overburdened regulators.

The company still seeks a 9.2 percent rate increase throughout the next two years, which would begin in 2018. But the new proposal takes into consideration that not all customers would have been paying equal amounts under the previous plan.

Company spokesman Pahl Shipley says the new agreement also removed a request to accelerate how quickly the company can recover costs associated with two coal plants that face potential retirement.

New Mexico Lawmakers Confront Budget Crisis, GovernorAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are converging on the state Capitol for a special session in hopes of resolving a budget crisis.

The session begins at noon Wednesday with a focus on restoring vetoed funding to all state colleges and universities.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and the Democrat-led Legislature have been feuding for months over how to fill a shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.

Martinez in April vetoed tax and fee increases that most lawmakers say are needed to bolster funding for public schools, courts and critical government services after repeated rounds of cuts to state agencies.

The governor favors further government belt tightening, along with legislation to wipe away tax breaks.

Lawmakers are contemplating quick ways to boost finances by taxing more online sales, imposing taxes on nonprofit hospitals and suspending infrastructure projects.

New Mexico House Speaker Says Tax Reforms Won't Get VoteAssociated Press

Democratic House speaker Brian Egolf says the New Mexico Legislature will not vote on a major tax reform proposal backed by the state's Republican governor during a special legislative session.

Egolf on Tuesday said that too much time has passed without a final version of the legislation or a fiscal analysis for lawmakers’ review. The Legislature convenes Wednesday at noon to address a state budget crisis.

Republican Rep. Jason Harper is preparing legislation to overhaul gross receipts taxes on sales and business services to improve the state's business climate and bolster state finances.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is a vocal supporter of the efforts that would do away with a variety of tax breaks to bring in sales tax revenue from more sources — at a lower overall tax rate.

Longest Serving Member Of UNM Regents Resigns After 18 YearsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The longest serving member of the University of New Mexico regents has resigned from the school's governing board after 18 years.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Regent Jack Fortner submitted his letter of resignation Tuesday.

Fortner's most recent six-year term expired last December, but regents can continue serving until the New Mexico Senate confirms their replacement.

Fortner told the Journal that he didn't want to be a distraction to the university.

He's a full-time attorney in Farmington and says he will focus more attention on his position as San Juan County Commission chairman.

New Mexico Man Convicted Of Shooting Clovis Police OfficerAssociated Press

A New Mexico man who authorities say shot a Clovis police officer has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Ninth Judicial District Attorney Andrea Reeb announced Tuesday that a jury returned a guilty verdict against Anthony Baca. Police say the 35-year-old Baca shot Officer Chris Caron while escaping arrest on a failure to appear warrant.

Authorities say a bullet grazed Caron's thigh and he returned to work shortly after the shooting.

Baca was convicted of aggravated battery on a peace officer with a deadly weapon and assault with intent to commit a violent felony on a peace officer.

State District Judge Drew Tatum sentenced Baca to the maximum of 15 years in prison, which included enhancements for a prior felony conviction.

Xcel Completes $5.6M Project To Boost Capacity Near HobbsAssociated Press

Xcel Energy says it has completed a $5.6 million project to boost electric capacity in one stretch of southeastern New Mexico.

The utility says the infrastructure improvements will help the agricultural areas north of Hobbs, where irrigation and dairy customers were experiencing voltage fluctuations due to their distance from the power source and the strain on existing substations in the area.

Utility officials say residential and commercial customer growth in neighborhoods on the northern edge of the city also was bogging down the two existing substations on hot summer days.

The project included the construction of a new substation, improved feeder lines and additional switches to help prevent overloads.

Defense: Jury's Outcome Sends A Strong MessageAssociated Press

A defense attorney for a former New Mexico sheriff's deputy facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of a fellow deputy says he's pleased that most jurors did not believe his client was guilty.

A state district judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the case of Tai Chan, who was accused of shooting Jeremy Martin during what authorities described as an alcohol-fueled argument.

Jurors informed the judge after deliberating for less than four hours that they would not be able to reach a unanimous decision on lesser possible charges that included second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Defense attorney John Day says none of the jurors believed Chan was guilty of first-degree murder. He says the outcome sends a strong message, and he hopes prosecutors consider that both of Chan's trials have resulted in mistrials.

Prosecutors say they were consulting with Martin's family on the next step. It was not immediately clear if they would pursue a retrial.

Expiring Law Could Leave Route 66 Towns Without Key FundingAssociated Press

Route 66, the historic American roadway that linked Chicago to the West Coast, soon may be dropped from a National Park Service preservation program.

A federal law authorizing the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is set to expire in two years and with it would go millions of dollars in grants for reviving old tourist spots in struggling towns.

Landmarks Illinois director Frank Butterfield says small communities could miss out on much needed economic development funding.

The program has helped finance projects like the El Vado Motel neon sign restoration in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Station restoration in Kansas.

Decommissioned as a U.S. highway in 1985, Route 66 went through eight states, connecting tourists with friendly diners and motor lodges in small towns.

Redevelopment Of Historic Motel Along Route 66 To Begin SoonAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Redevelopment of another old motel along historic Route 66 will begin soon.

Albuquerque-based Construct Southwest was selected last July by the city of Albuquerque to bring the De Anza Motor Lodge back to life. The property has sat vacant for years.

The company tells the Albuquerque Journal that demolition of three buildings at the site is scheduled for next month.

The redevelopment project is expected to take about a year. It calls for turning the blighted motor court into upscale extended-stay units for business travelers and tourists.

The historic signs fronting the roadway and several buildings will be preserved, as well as some rare Zuni Pueblo murals.

The city bought the De Anza in 2003 for $891,000. The motel was built in the 1930s.

Trump Administration Dropping Nuclear Waste Burial Test PlanAssociated Press

The U.S. Department of Energy says it's abandoning a test to determine whether nuclear waste can be buried far underground.

The agency said Tuesday that it doesn't intend to continue supporting the Deep Borehole Field Test because of changes in budget priorities.

It was meant to assess whether nuclear waste could be stored in approximately 3-mile-deep holes. Officials had stressed it wouldn't involve the use of actual nuclear waste.

Energy officials said in December that companies were exploring potential sites in South Dakota, Texas and New Mexico. Local officials in North Dakota and South Dakota had previously rebuffed test organizers.

South Dakota U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem applauded the Energy Department's move, saying that she was deeply concerned about testing in "our backyard" to see whether boreholes could store nuclear waste.