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Morning Word: Lawmakers Return to Santa Fe on Friday

Still no deal to fix growing state budget deficit

September 29, 2016, 7:40 am
Special Session Set for Friday
Lawmakers are headed back to Santa Fe on Friday for a special session to fix the state’s massive $600 million budget deficit and to consider the governor’s crime legislation, including a proposal to reinstate the death penalty in New Mexico.

Funding Cutbacks
Santa Fe Community College, like other higher education institutions, is bracing for funding cutbacks up to $750,000. 
Earlier this week, state Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, told The New Mexican he is positive that lawmakers will be looking at higher education for a possible reduction. “Public education and higher education represent 57 cents out of a dollar. I know it will be there [for discussion],” said Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Last week, administrators at The University of New Mexico said they were taking pre-emptive steps to address a possible shortage of $22 million, including an immediate hiring freeze.
Insurance Firms on Hook for Back Taxes
John Franchini, the state insurance superintendent, told lawmakers on Wednesday that he vows to collect every penny of the $193 million insurance companies owe in back taxes, which would go a long way toward lowering the state budget deficit.

PRC Approves PNM Rate Increase
On Wednesday, Public Regulation Commissioners voted 3 to 2 to approve a rate hike for the Public Service Company of New Mexico. The approved rate hike was a little more than half of PNM’s requested increase of $123.5 million in annual revenue, but higher than the $41.3 million recommended by a PRC hearing officer. Parties on both sides of the issue say they’ll appeal the decision. PNM says it will file another rate increase request at the PRC by the end of the year.

State Drug Spending Increases
The Associated Press reports that state agencies spent a whopping $680 million on prescription medication for everyone from prison inmates to retired state workers, a 54 percent increase from two years ago.

Happy Talk ‘Encourages Complacency’
New Mexico Political Report editor Matthew Reichbach has inked a commentary and says that state leaders and economic development executives live in an alternate reality and should stop the happy talk about New Mexico’s economy, saying it encourages complacency and fails to deal with things like New Mexico’s high unemployment, small hourly wage increases and lack of private sector development.

Defense Secretary Praises Lab Workers During Tour
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter toured Los Alamos National Laboratory on Wednesday and viewed an area where molten plutonium is shaped into a pit, the plutonium core of a nuclear weapon. “A strong plutonium science and manufacturing capability is essential to the US nuclear deterrent and cannot be underestimated," Carter said. "I want to express my sincere appreciation for the difficult and vitally important work done at Los Alamos to help assure the development, assessment and security of the nuclear triad.”

APD Officers Still Face Murder Charges
“State District Judge Alisa Hadfield on Wednesday found insufficient evidence was presented during the prosecution’s eight days of testimony to support the third-degree felony charge of voluntary manslaughter against two former Albuquerque police officers on trial in the on-duty shooting death of a homeless camper in 2014,” reports Colleen Heild. “While Hadfield decided to throw out the manslaughter charge on a defense motion, she found 'enough evidence' to support the charge of second-degree murder and continue the trial."

 

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