NM Reduces Estimate For Missing Taxes, Complaint: PAC Supporting ABQ Mayor Hopeful

Sep 30, 2017

New Mexico Reduces Estimate For Missing TaxesAssociated Press

New Mexico's top insurance regulator says that an independent audit of unpaid insurance premium taxes shows far less money is owed to the state than previously thought.

State Insurance Superintendent John Franchini announced Friday that a preliminary summary of the audit shows potential underpayments to the state amount to a fraction of the $193 million previously estimated.

Franchini's office declined to provide specific dollar estimates for missing taxes under the audit by Atlanta-based Examination Resources. Agency spokeswoman Heather Widler says more information should be publicly available after documents are reviewed by the Office of the State Auditor.

The new audit examines premium tax filings from 30 companies since 2003. It is unclear how the audit addresses accusations by state prosecutors that a Presbyterian Healthcare Services subsidiary illegally avoided taxes.

Complaint: Albuquerque Mayor Hopeful, PAC Working Together – Associated Press

A new complaint says Democratic candidate Tim Keller and a PAC supporting him are illegally working together to get him elected.

The campaign of Wayne Johnson, a Keller opponent, said Friday that documents show Keller's campaign and ABQ Forward Together both paid $15K each to the same firm within 24 hours of each other. Johnson says the documents indicated "coordinated expenditures" and a violation of various city ordinances.

The Johnson campaign filed the complaint with the city clerk's office.

Keller campaign attorney Molly Schmidt-Nowara said the accusation is completely false and a last-minute cheap shot in an attempt to district from Johnson's alleged ethics violations.

Johnson and Keller are among the seven candidates running for Albuquerque mayor.

Keller also is facing a complaint that his publicly financed campaign is accepting "in-kind" cash donations.

Crime Focus Of Open Albuquerque Mayor's Race Associated Press

Seven candidates are vying to become the next mayor of New Mexico's largest city amid rising crime and pressures to revamp the Albuquerque Police Department.

Polls show Democrat and current State Auditor Tim Keller is leading the field. Former New Mexico Democratic Party chair Brian Colon and Republican City Councilor Dan Lewis are battling for the second spot.

This marks the first mayoral campaign in 20 years without an incumbent on the ballot.

The election is Tuesday. The ballot is crowded, and if no candidate gets 50 percent, the top two vote-getters will face off in a November runoff.

The top issue has been crime. FBI statistics released this week show violent crime in Albuquerque jumped nearly 16 percent in 2016 along with a similar double-digit increase in property crimes.

Sandoval Sheriff's Deputy Fatally Strikes Woman With Truck Associated Press

Police in New Mexico say a 68-year-old woman died after a Sandoval County Sheriff's deputy backed his truck into her and ran her over.

The incident happened on Thursday afternoon when the deputy was investigating a burglary alarm at a home. The deputy, who has not been identified, was called to another burglary alarm and got into his marked department truck. As he backed out of the house, he struck Linda Baragiola of Placitas and ran her over with the truck's back tire.

Baragiola died at the hospital.

New Mexico State Police say Baragiola was standing behind the deputy's truck and was possibly on her cell phone when she was struck.

An investigation is ongoing.

Supporters: Risk Assessment Key To Bail Reform In New Mexico Associated Press

The Drug Policy Alliance and others are joining in support of bail reforms in New Mexico, saying there's a need for more risk assessment tools to help judges determine whether defendants should be detained or released pending trial.

Officials with the alliance, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Rio Grande Foundation gathered Friday in Albuquerque to talk about protecting the fundamental principles of New Mexico's bail reform initiative as the state Supreme Court considers possible changes.

District attorneys from across the state proposed this week that the rules include more details about what judges can consider when assessing a defendant's risk.

The recommendations also suggest that the courts not require evidence in any particular form for pretrial detention hearings. Prosecutors say the current interpretation of the rules is draining resources and adding to an already burdensome caseload.

New Mexico Legislators Are Concerned About Spaceport's Costs Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are questioning if more state funding is necessary for the commercial spaceport in the southern part of the state.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on Thursday that members of the Legislative Finance Committee held a hearing about the future of the facility where they questioned Spaceport America CEO Dan Hicks about the business plan.

Hicks says the facility has the ability to be a commercial hub and it has advantages over competing spaceports, but it requires government funding to operate.

Republican state Sen. Sander Rue says legislators are concerned about how much money it will take to make the spaceport fully operational and more self-sustaining.

While Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant of the spaceport, Space X, Up Aerospace and EXOS Aerospace have all used the facility.

New Mexico Questions Spending On College Courses For Kids Associated Press

New Mexico officials are reconsidering whether increasingly popular college-level classes taken by high school students warrant growing public subsidies.

A progress report published Thursday by the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Committee shows that students who pursue dual-credit coursework that can count toward high school and college degrees tend to have higher academic aptitudes based on standardized testing.

In New Mexico, total state spending on dual credit education has increased 60 percent since 2012 to $54 million, as classes shift to college faculty and campuses without a reduction in high school funding.

New Mexico Gets Federal Grant For Charter School Expansion Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Education awarded New Mexico a $22-million grant to expand charter schools in the state.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on Thursday that the funding awarded to the state Public Education Department will be distributed over five years to launch 22 new charter schools and expand eight existing charter schools.

The grant was part of $253 million the federal government awarded to states and other entities to increase the role of charter schools.

State education officials say the funding will help it improve charter authorizing practices and the fiscal and organizational performance of the schools.

About 7 percent of all New Mexico students are enrolled in the roughly 100 charter schools authorized by the state and local districts.