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Morning Word: Industry Executive Tapped to Head State Energy Department

December 21, 2016, 7:30 am
McQueen Tapped to Head Energy Department
Gov. Susana Martinez appointed a former energy industry executive to head up the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department for the last two years of her administration. Ken McQueen, who retired from WPX Energy earlier this year, replaces David Martin.
Conservation Voters New Mexico said in a statement that there has been “widespread concern” about the amount of influence the oil and gas industry has over the Republican governor’s administration, and appointing an industry executive to the regulatory post is “just another action that makes Gov. Martinez’s allegiance clear.”
Reserve Funds Cover Deficit
The state’s Board of Finance transferred $594 million from reserve accounts to pay outstanding bills and close the books on the fiscal year that ended in June. 
Paying for basic government services during the past 18 months has been problematic for the state. Budget projections initially showed the state would have enough income to pay for all agencies, schools and universities at the current level. But as the price of crude oil declined, so did tax revenue. In the end, legislators had to return for a special session in October to again cut spending and allow for additional reserve transfers.
Court Funding Requests Get Mixed Response
Meanwhile, two emergency court funding requests were rejected by the Board of Finance on Tuesday. Another request to fund the New Mexico Court of Appeals was approved.
Court of Appeals Chief Justice Michael Vigil said the court was prepared to order unpaid furloughs of varying durations for its nearly 50 employees starting next week if the request had not been granted. However, the Board of Finance postponed action on the two other requests: Roughly $825,000 in emergency funding for a jury and witness fund and $80,000 for the Supreme Court, which is also facing the possibility of furloughs.
Religious Leaders Blast "Tortilla Tax" Proposal
Russell Contreras reports, “A proposal to reinstate a food tax in New Mexico is drawing strong opposition from the Roman Catholic church and anti-poverty groups over concerns the plan would raise grocery prices largely on the state’s poor.”
"This ‘Tortilla Tax,’ as many have labeled it, only shifts the burden onto the poor and working families,” said Santa Fe Archbishop John C Wester. “What makes this idea even more obscene is that New Mexico ranks second highest in the nation for children living in hunger and the first highest for children living in poverty.”
Analysis: How Trump Policies Could Impact New Mexico
The team at SFR has a long look at what a Donald Trump administration may mean for New Mexico on issues like healthcare, immigration, drug policy, the environment and more.

Wildcats Thump Lobos
The 18th ranked Arizona Wildcats trounced the University of New Mexico Lobos Men’s Basketball team in a 77-46 blowout Tuesday night in Albuquerque. Now it’s on to conference action for the 7-5 Lobos.


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