Morning Word

State Coffers Loaded with Oil and Gas Cash

Special session starts today

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials on Friday reported 2,388 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 320,520; DOH designated 269,417 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 801 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 322 and Valencia County with 205. Santa Fe County had 107. DOH reported the statewide test positivity rate at 14.1%, well above the 7.5% target.The state also announced 14 additional deaths, 13 of them recent and one a male in his 80s from Santa Fe County who was hospitalized; there have been 5,407 total fatalities statewide.

As of Friday, 675 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 20 more than the day prior. Currently, 86.1% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 74.6% are fully vaccinated. Among that demographic, 24.3% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 64.8% of people have had at least one dose and 55.7% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 18% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 2.2% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 97.1% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 84.3% are fully vaccinated.

New Mexicans can register for a COVID-19 vaccine here, schedule a COVID-19 vaccine booster here and view a public calendar for vaccine availability here. Parents can add dependents to their vaccine profiles here.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Rolling in the dough

New Mexico’s coffers are full of money that came primarily from higher-than-expected oil and gas production and prices. The newest consensus revenue estimate from analysts at the Legislative Finance Committee says recurring revenues for FY22 are estimated at $8.163 billion, up $54.4 million from the August estimate. Plus recurring revenues are estimated at $9.049 billion for the next fiscal year. “‘New money,’ or projected recurring revenues for the following fiscal year less current year recurring appropriations, is estimated at $1.599 billion for FY23, or 21.5% growth from the FY22 recurring budget,” the report reads. Lawmakers on the Legislative Finance Committee discussed the projections Friday. “The forecast for growth in New Mexico is still a steady upward climb,” said Stephanie Schardin Clarke, secretary of the state Taxation and Revenue Department. However, fluctuations in the price of oil, the trajectory of the coronavirus, the outcome of a federal spending plan that’s under negotiation and the trend in inflation could also factor into the future, analysts noted.

Divide the maps and divide the cash

While the special session that begins at noon today is mainly to zero in on redistricting that’s required every decade after the US Census, it’s also necessary so lawmakers may appropriate outstanding American Rescue Plan Act funds. A coalition from Tourism Santa Fe and Visit Albuquerque along with the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, New Mexico Hospitality Association, New Mexico Restaurant Association and Ski New Mexico wants $55 million of that cash to go toward their favored programs (a list that will be disclosed today). The Albuquerque Journal’s Dan McKay writes that the session is expected to last two weeks, though he notes that the 2011 redistricting session was nearly three weeks long and resulted in a court battle.

NM moms say requiring dad disclosure is bad policy

ProPublica centers its latest investigation into national welfare trends in New Mexico with a story focused on policies that require mothers to name and locate the biological fathers of their children in order to receive aid. “The moms described it as humiliating and sometimes terrifying to be questioned about their sexual histories by agents of the state, in small interview rooms, just to obtain a basic form of government help. Some were required to submit their children to genetic testing in order to receive aid,” writes Eli Hager. New Mexico’s Human Services Department uses the information to find dads and force them to make payments, but pockets half the money rather than passing it along to children and their caregivers. The payments are among more than $1.7 billion in child support collected from fathers in 2020 that was seized by federal and state governments as repayment for mothers and children having been on welfare, according to a ProPublica analysis of federal Office of Child Support Enforcement statistics. New Mexico officials say they’re acting in compliance with federal requirements and argue that exceptions for domestic violence or other risks of severe harm are in place, but the moms in Hager’s story say the risk of jeopardizing tricky relationships and other consequences are too great. Colorado’s law, however, requires all the payments to be passed through to families, and that strategy has proven to incentivize more dads to pay.

Listen up

While human health has been the big headline in recent memory, wildlife health is the topic for the newest episode of the New Mexico Wildlife podcast by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Remember chronic wasting disease (aka mad cow)? Kerry Mower, the department’s wildlife health specialist, also talks about illness such as mange, which is transmitted by mites. Mower says the state benefits from the weather when it comes to common animal ailments. “Our arid climate in New Mexico kind of helps both livestock and wildlife be in control,” he said, “and not be overrun by parasites that affect different parts of the country.”

More than mutant pizza

Comic artist Bryan “Peabe” Odiamar, who relocated to Santa Fe after a roadtrip last fall, has channeled the pandemic weirdness into publication of Thud, which features a main character who appears as “a super-rad mashup and amalgamation of Odiamar’s favorite comics as a kid with a bit of himself thrown in,” writes SFR Culture Editor Alex De Vore.The first chapter dropped a few weeks ago and seven others are pending for the artist who is the son of Filipino immigrants. The work, De Vore explains, has “hints of the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles from Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, a dash of character design a la Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, a nod to Marvel’s golden years and a little bit of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn meets Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass for good measure.” But it also strays away from street fights into one-offs that hilariously capture the mundane. “I wanted to put in these moments, because, when I was a kid, I thought it would be funny if random things happened,” Odiamar explains. “When I was a kid, I’d think ‘Is Batman really hopping from action thing to action thing with nothing in-between?’ I like to fill in the moments in-between. Like, maybe he was really into pizza? I find the humor in the regular.”

Fire never goes out of season

It’s still fire season in New Mexico. Smoky skies in Santa Fe on Saturday afternoon came from a fire burning in the bosque near Pena Blanca along Hwy. 22, just southwest of Cochiti Lake. As of Saturday evening, Sandoval County officials said the Bureau of Indian Affairs Wildland Fire Management team would be taking over. At the time, various Albuquerque media outlets reported the blaze at between 117 and 120 acres and about 25% contained. Meanwhile, Santa Fe National Forest officials said Friday they were postponing a planned series of slash pile burns. Those might ignite later this week. The agency said the decision to proceed will depend on multiple factors, including resource availability, fuel moisture levels, air quality, ventilation, and forecasted weather and wind.

A bit cooler

It’s due to be cooler today in Santa Fe, though still not quite winter-like, with the National Weather Service forecasting a high near 50 degrees and partly sunny skies. The overnight low: 29 degrees. As of now, there’s no moisture on the horizon until Friday, when there’s a 50% chance of rain or snow.

Thanks for reading! The Word still isn’t quite ready to plunge into the tsunami of year-end wraps on the way, but can relate to some of the vibes highlighted in The New Yorker’s new piece, “The Year in Vibes,” including “the combination of convenience and ennui of working from home.”

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