New Mexico News Plus
LFC budget proposal sets up clash with governor -- Santa Fe New Mexican
Legislative leaders propose a $6.05 billion budget for 2017-18 that would trim the spending of state agencies by an average of 0.4 percent and count on lawmakers to either raise taxes or find additional cuts to balance New Mexico’s books when they gather Tuesday in Santa Fe for a 60-day session.
The chairman of the New Mexico Legislature’s budget-writing committee said Wednesday that, unlike the governor, he will not push to close the state’s current deficit by requiring public employees pay a greater share of their salaries into their pension accounts nor drain about $125 million in cash reserves from local school districts. -- 1/12/2017
Governor Susana Martinez Introduces Fiscal Year 2018 Budget -- News release, State of New Mexico Office of the Governor
Governor Susana Martinez announced her Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal, which closes the current budget deficit caused by the oil and gas crash without raising taxes. At the same time, the proposal protects classroom spending, economic development initiatives, and public safety.
The FY 17 solvency package includes:
• Sweeping $268.5 million in various cash and fund balances from across state government, including a small portion – $12.5 million – of lawmakers’ vastly overfunded personal retirement accounts.
• That also includes $120 million in administration slush funds within our school districts that are not being used in the classrooms. This DOES NOT have an impact on classrooms. With the sweep, the fund will still have $132 million and would allow school districts to keep their reserves at 5 percent as currently directed.
• Reducing the gross receipts tax “hold harmless” distribution to those counties and municipalities that have already raised taxes on their citizens. This will save $9 million.
• Reducing budgets for the Legislature and Higher Education, from 3 percent and 5 percent respectively, to the 5.5 percent the majority of other agencies are having to deal with (total of $4 million recurring).
• To prevent state employee furloughs and salary reductions, the proposal includes a 3.5 percent retirement swap from state employer contribution to state employee contribution.
• The elimination of some credits and assessments paid by Medicaid to the New Mexico Health Exchange and New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool (total of $17 million recurring).
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Tuesday the U.S. intelligence community's report concluding that Russia orchestrated hacks during the 2016 presidential campaign was based on a mix of human sources, collection of technical data and open-source information.
Clapper, speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee, said much of the report is classified due to a need to protect sensitive sources and methods. -- 1/10/2017
BLM: Verde Transmission Line proposal violates land plan -- Santa Fe New Mexican
A proposed high-voltage power line that would cross federal land northwest of Santa Fe isn’t permitted under the management plan for the land, a federal official said Wednesday.
Sarah Schlanger, field manager for the BLM’s Taos office, said that because of the visual classification of the BLM land, the management plan for the area would have to be changed for construction of the power line to move forward.
Actor and environmental activist Robert Redford, a Santa Fe County resident, raised the issue of the Class II visual rating for the BLM land in a commentary article published Sunday in The New Mexican. He highlighted the importance of the state’s open landscapes to the film industry and the economic benefit created as a result. -- 1/5/2017
Nuke dump disposes of first drums of waste in three years -- Albuquerque Journal
Employees at the federal government’s only underground nuclear waste repository resumed disposal work Wednesday after a nearly three-year hiatus prompted by a radiation release that contaminated a significant portion of the facility.
Two pallets of low-level radioactive waste were emplaced in one of the underground disposal rooms at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico around 12:45 p.m., the U.S. Energy Department confirmed.
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and other officials are expected to celebrate the reopening with a ribbon-cutting event Monday. -- 1/5/2017
New Mexico still ranks near bottom for education quality -- Santa Fe New Mexican
Public school students in New Mexico have the poorest chance for success among students nationwide because of factors such as the state’s high poverty rate, its low graduation rate and its students failing to meet goals in reading and math, according to a new report.
A bright spot is that New Mexico does better than most states when it comes to equitably funding public schools across all districts, says the annual Quality Counts report by the national Education Week magazine.
Overall, New Mexico received a grade of D and ranked 49th in the report released Wednesday. Quality Counts grades states and the District of Columbia on how well they prepare students for college and careers, how states fare in terms of supporting student achievement and how they manage their education dollars. -- 1/4/2017
Investment returns to boost money for schools -- Albuquerque Journal
New Mexico’s bleak financial situation could see a ray of light in the coming budget year, as positive investment returns are expected to lead to roughly $60 million in additional funds for public schools, hospitals and other programs from the state’s two large permanent funds.
The two funds – the Land Grant Permanent Fund and the Severance Tax Permanent Fund – make annual distributions to the state to help offset spending on education, health care and other programs. The funds are managed by the New Mexico State Investment Council. -- 1/4/2017
How to Become a ‘Superager’ -- New York Times SundayReview
Why do some older people remain mentally nimble while others decline? “Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds. Massachusetts General Hospital recently studied superagers to understand what made them tick.
How do you become a superager? Which activities, if any, will increase your chances of remaining mentally sharp into old age? We’re still studying this question, but our best answer at the moment is: work hard at something. Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort. -- 12/31/2016
Protection sought for New Mexico park’s geothermal deposits -- Santa Fe New Mexican/Associated Press
Underground pockets of boiling water and steam in a Northern New Mexico national preserve that represent the heart of an ancient collapsed volcano could get extra federal protection under a proposal by the National Park Service to limit or prevent any negative effects from tapping geothermal energy on neighboring land.
Federal officials said last week that the Valles Caldera National Preserve would become the 17th U.S. park unit with designated thermal features, if approved. A monthlong public comment period will end Jan. 26. -- 1/3/2017
FBI, DHS release report on Russia hacking -- The Hill
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday released a joint report detailing how federal investigators linked the Russian government to hacks of Democratic Party organizations.
The 13-page report provides technical details regarding tools and infrastructure used by Russian civilian and military intelligence services to “compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. Government, political, and private sector entities.” -- 12/29/2016
With new monuments in Nevada, Utah, Obama adds to his environmental legacy -- Washington Post
President Obama on Tuesday created new national monuments in a sacred tribal site in southeastern Utah and in a swath of Nevada desert, after years of political fights over the fate of the sites. -- 12/28/2016