NM Highlands University Hikes Tuition, Navajo Coal Plant Closure Could Cause 1,000 Job Losses

Apr 29, 2017

The Latest: New Mexico Highlands University Hikes TuitionAssociated Press

A rural state university in New Mexico approved a tuition hike as student costs rise within one of the nation's most affordable public higher education systems in response to the state's budget crisis.

Regents at New Mexico Highlands University voted Friday to adopt a 7.5 percent tuition increase in anticipation of new state funding cuts. They described a desperate effort to retain talented faculty and avoid program cuts or furloughs.

The decision extends recent tuition hikes to four of the state's seven main public colleges and a community college in Santa Fe, as administrators grapple with major financial uncertainties.

All state spending on higher education institutions was vetoed in early April, amid an escalating feud with the Democratic-led Legislature over how to resolve a state budget crisis.

Navajo Coal Plant Closure Could Cause 1,000 Job LossesAssociated Press

Officials in remote areas of Utah and Arizona say the recent decision to shut down a coal-fired power plant in northern Arizona is expected to cause about 1,000 job losses in an area already struggling with high unemployment.

Owners of the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona, voted earlier this year to close the plant and the coal mine that supports it by 2019.

The plant employs 500 people, mostly Navajo, and is considered important to the local economy. A Peabody Energy coal mine that supplies the plant employs 430 people.

Jerry Williams, a plant worker and Lechee Chapter president of the Navajo Nation, said the economic hit will extend to relatives because residents on the reservation often take up jobs far away to help out families back home.

Study Finds Health Care Overhaul Would Burden New MexicoAssociated Press

An analysis commissioned by an Albuquerque-based advocacy group on poverty issues has found that Republican plans to overhaul Medicaid health care would likely shift billions of dollars in costs to New Mexico's state government by 2026.

The study released Thursday by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty concluded that New Mexico state government would be compelled to pay an additional $3 billion from 2020 to 2026 to maintain current levels of Medicaid coverage and services.

New Mexico is one of the 31 states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The state's uninsured rate has been cut in half since 2013 with the expansion.

Under the Republican plan, costs to the state would increase substantially for new expansion patients and those who drop out and return, starting in 2019. That would likely cost the state an average of $427 million a year between 2020 and 2026, according to the analysis by University of New Mexico researcher Kelly O'Donnell. Rolling back the expansion could syphon even more federal dollars away from the state.

Overall, the legislation would cut the Medicaid program for the poor, eliminate fines for people who do not buy insurance and provide generally skimpier subsidies.

Republicans generally embraced the revisions as a way to lower people's health care expenses. Democrats remained solidly opposed to the legislation.

28 Facing Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering In New MexicoAssociated Press

Federal authorities say 28 people are facing drug trafficking and money laundering charges in New Mexico.

The charges stem from a 16-month investigation targeting a Mexican drug trafficking organization responsible for importing large quantities of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine from Mexico and distributing the drugs in New Mexico, Texas and three other states.

During the investigation, authorities say they seized about 30 kilograms of heroin, 64 kilograms of methamphetamine, 17 kilograms of cocaine, 20 kilograms of marijuana, 24 firearms, three vehicles and $102,000.

The investigation concluded Friday with an early morning, multi-agency law enforcement operation that included the execution of arrest warrants in New Mexico and Texas and six search warrants in the same two states.

Authorities say 23 of the 28 defendants are in custody, with 20 arrested Friday.

Authorities Investigating Dead Body Set On Fire Near TijerasAssociated Press

Bernalillo County Sheriff's officials say they're investigating the discovery of a dead body that had been set on fire near Tijeras.

They say deputies responded to a call around 6:45 a.m. Friday of a "possible deceased person on fire."

The sheriff office's homicide unit responded to the scene.

Due to the condition of the body, they say they have limited information on identifying the person.

Victims Identified In New Mexico Wal-Mart Double ShootingGallup Independent, Associated Press

The victims of a double shooting at a Wal-Mart in New Mexico have been identified as a couple from Arizona.

The Gallup Independent reported Thursday that the victims are 70-year-old Virginia Leichliter and 70-year-old Gary Crakow. The couple's dog was also shot.

Police say the victims were not married.

What transpired before the shooting is currently under investigation. Police say the car both victims were found in had been hitched to a tow truck when they arrived.

Police say they do not if the couple were in the vehicle as the hitching occurred or if they got in the vehicle after.

The tow-truck driver had called police saying he saw Leichliter shoot herself.

Police have not been able to determine if Crakow shot himself or if Leichliter did.

One gun was found at the scene.

New Mexico Gets Warnings On Winter Storm, Fire ConditionsAssociated Press

New Mexico's weather is blowing dangerously hot and cold.

A "red flag" warning has been issued for southwestern New Mexico for much of Friday due to dryness and wind creating critical fire weather conditions.

Meanwhile, a winter storm warning will be in effect from late Friday night to early Sunday for much of northeastern New Mexico, with forecasts calling for heavy and blowing snow.