State Tax Revenue Rose In March, Lottery Scholarship Funding Down By $8 Million

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New Mexico State Tax Revenue Rebounds In MarchAssociated Press

A monthly report from New Mexico finance officials shows a rebound in state tax revenue after a prolonged downward slide.

A report from the Legislative Finance Committee on Thursday says state tax revenues in March increased by about 14 percent from the previous year to $516 million.

Signs of a recovery in state tax income are easing pressure on state lawmakers as they prepare for a special session next week to balance the budget for the coming fiscal year. Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a variety of tax increases and is seeking further belt tightening by state government.

The March revenue increase was driven by gross receipts taxes on sales and business services that rose to $163 million, up by $20 million from the previous year.

State economists attributed that tax boost to slow economic growth an oil-industry recovery. Overall tax income for the current fiscal year still trails last year by nearly 2 percent.

Design Sketches For Route 66 Neon Signs Rescued, PreservedAssociated Press

Hundreds of design sketches for some of Route 66's most memorable neon signs in New Mexico's largest city and other spots along the famous road have been preserved and are now part of a university's special collection.

Two professors teamed up to rescue the colorful, hand-drawn midcentury designs from a cache of old business records at an Albuquerque sign-making shop after they were deemed a fire hazard.

Mark Childs is an associate dean and professor at the University of New Mexico's school of architecture. He and associate sculpture professor Ellen Babcock turned the find into a book in 2016. New Mexico preservation officials honored the two last week for their work to salvage the historic drawings.

The professors say the designs marked the beginnings of what would become touchstones and mementos for travelers and people who lived along the highway.

Funding For Lottery Scholarships Lags By Nearly $8MAssociated Press

New Mexico lottery officials say transfers to the state's lottery scholarship program through April are lagging by nearly $8 million compared to the same time last year.

They're also projecting a return of about $37.5 million to the scholarship fund this fiscal year. That's about $9 million less than the previous year.

New Mexico has struggled in recent years to find a solution to solvency problems with the program, which provides scholarships for tens of thousands of students through lottery revenues.

Higher education officials have warned that the amount of the scholarships could be reduced.

Lottery Chairman Dan Salzwedel blames artificial barriers for keeping the lottery from maximizing sales. He pointed to an existing requirement that a certain percentage of lottery sales be funneled to the scholarship program rather than be used to bolster sales through higher payouts.

States Make Legal Move In Fight Over Health Care ReformAssociated Press

Democrats in California, New York and other states, including New Mexico, are trying to intervene in a federal lawsuit that threatens to undercut funding for the Affordable Care Act.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Thursday that the states want to step into the case in federal court in Washington to protect care for millions of Americans.

At issue is how the Trump administration will handle the pending lawsuit over billions of dollars in insurance subsidies.

The lawsuit was filed by House Republicans against the Obama administration and challenged the constitutionality of the aid payments estimated at $7 billion this year.

Ending the payments could disrupt life for millions of people with coverage.

Becerra says there is no way to predict the direction of the Trump White House.

New Mexico County Could Lose Millions With Proposed Food TaxDaily Times, Associated Press

Officials in San Juan County say the outcome of an upcoming special legislative session could force drastic changes in the county's own budget.

The Daily Times reported Wednesday that County Commission Chairman Jack Fortner says the county's budget will be contingent on what lawmakers and the governor do next week.

Legislators will be discussing so-called hold harmless payments, which are given to local governments in place of food tax revenue.

Gov. Susana Martinez has considered bringing back a food tax, which would eliminate the need for the hold harmless payments.

County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter says the county could lose $2 million if the move goes through. He says there are contingency plans in the works if the payments end and the county is unable to collect food tax.

Expert Says New Mexico Police Did Not Alter Shooting VideosAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A police expert says the video evidence from a New Mexico fatal police shooting was not tampered with.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday on the copy of the January report by expert Grant Fredericks it obtained from the city.

The report is part of the ongoing investigation into Mary Hawkes' 2014 shooting. Former Albuquerque officer Jeremy Dear says he shot the 19-year-old after she pointed a gun at him. Fredericks' report supports Dear's claim.

The Journal reported that the expert working for Hawkes' family suspected that the video evidence had been altered. Fredericks' report claims the videos filed as evidence are the original recordings.

City officials have said that all relevant video footage has been made public.

Nine Years After Recession Began, Some States Still Unrecovered - By Jeff Amy, Associated Press

Call them the unrecovered — a handful of states where job markets, nine years later, are still struggling back to where they were before the recession.

That's true in Mississippi, where job numbers and the overall size of the economy remain below 2008 levels. It's also true in states including Alabama, Michigan, New Mexico, and West Virginia, which remain below pre-recession job levels by multiple measures. That contrasts with states including Colorado, where employment numbers have sprinted ahead. Nationwide, job numbers surpassed pre-recession peaks in 2014.

Growth has long lagged in Mississippi, and jobless rates are high even in good times. Mississippi has the second-lowest share of adults in the labor force of any state, an economy dependent on government employment, and fewer college-educated adults than the national average.

Planned Parenthood To Close 3 Clinics In Northern New MexicoSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains plans to close three clinics in northern New Mexico.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the closures in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho and Farmington are part of a larger consolidation effort to keep the organization solvent.

However, Planned Parenthood could face even more financial pressure as a result of proposals pending in Congress.

The closures will likely happen in September and would leave Planned Parenthood with two clinics in Albuquerque and one in Santa Fe.

Planned Parenthood officials say about 1,400 patients in Farmington and 1,800 in Rio Rancho may have to transfer to another provider in their community or travel farther to find a Planned Parenthood site.

Man Accused In Fatal Albuquerque Shooting Gets Prison TermAssociated Press

A man arrested in connection with a deadly New Year's Day 2016 shooting in Albuquerque that was fueled by a game of beer pong has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Prosecutors say 24-year-old Luis Delgado pleaded no contest to aggravated battery and aggravated burglary in February and was sentenced Wednesday.

Nathan Ware, another defendant in the case, pleaded guilty last November to second-degree murder and is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Authorities say Ware fought with two men after a drinking game in which teams throw ping pong balls into beer cups.

Ware later returned to the party and shot the two men. Authorities say one victim later died of his injuries.

Delgado reportedly was on probation for a domestic violence case at the time of the incident.