Saturday, January 30, 2010
In fact, on Friday, Richardson said 10,221 New Mexicans received full- or part-time work as a result of state spending of federal stimulus funds.
The state, in its second quarterly report filed with the federal Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said that 2,959 full-time equivalent jobs have been funded from Oct. 1, 2009 through Dec. 31, 2009.
The jobs, located all over the state, are in public schools, on transportation projects, in law enforcement, health care, social services and other areas, according to a news release.
New Mexico is expected to receive more than $3.4 million in stimulus awards over the life of the Recovery Act.
Friday, January 29, 2010
"Nuclear energy, in my view, has to be a key component of a new American energy policy that moves toward renewable, non-carbon emitting energy sources," Domenici said after being selected. "The 2005 Energy Policy Act...attempted to encourage nuclear, wind, bio-mass, solar and other forms of renewable energy. I am pleased that Secretary Chu has indicated that the Administration will expand the loan guarantee provisions in that law that help nuclear energy."
Finding long-term solutions for nuclear waste
The commission, which will be chaired by former Congressman Lee Hamilton and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, will provide recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to managing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.
In light of the Administration’s decision not to proceed with the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, President Obama has directed Secretary Chu to establish the Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. The Commission will provide advice and make recommendations on issues including alternatives for the storage, processing, and disposal of civilian and defense spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.
"This Commission has the potential to make a very positive contribution to national energy policy and I intend to participate fully," Domenici said. "In that capacity, I will once again call upon the unique resources available to us in New Mexico, where we have some of the most knowledgeable nuclear scientists and engineers in the world. The President deserves our commendation for establishing this Commission under the leadership of Secretary Chu, one of the outstanding scientists in the world."
A record of tackling tough issues
Chu said the administration is committed to promoting nuclear power in the United states because it's energy "provides a clean, safe, reliable power" and will have an important role to play "as we build a low-carbon future."
"The United States and developing a safe, long-term solution for the management of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste," Chu said. "The work of the Blue Ribbon Commission will be invaluable to this process," Secretary Chu said.
The Commission is made up of 15 members who have a range of expertise and experience in nuclear issues, including scientists, industry representatives, and respected former elected officials. The Commission’s co-chairs have a record of tackling tough challenges in a thoughtful, comprehensive manner and building consensus among an array of interests.
The Commission will produce an interim report within 18 months and a final report within 24 months.
The former governor and honorary chairman of his Our America Initiative, which has a 503-4c designation, is scheduled to be in Washington on February 9th.
Elected to two consecutive terms as governor in New Mexico, Johnson vetoed 750 bills, while balancing the state's budget with no new taxes.
He continues to be outspoken on issues ranging from the deficit to the war on drugs to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Earlier this month, Johnson attended the Marijuana Policy Project Gala along with Cheech and Chong.
Last weekend Johnson toured New Hampshire, the first in the nation primary states, and keynoted a the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire.
In 2009 more than 200,000 New Mexican families received the EITC with an average award of $2,054. In 2010 the EITC has been temporarily increased and expanded to include families with three or more children. In addition, the amount of EITC benefits current beneficiaries receive has been increased, making over 650,000 new families eligible nationwide.
The move was ordered on Thursday by the Public Regulation Department's Chief of Staff Daniel Mayfield.
Chavez told the Albuquerque Journal that he expects "an expeditious investation" but would not elborate on the details of the inquiry.
"I will fully cooperate with any and all investigation the PRC will be doing and look forward to resolving any and all issues," Chavez said.
PRC commissioner Sandy Jones said the investigation is "strictly a personnel issue."
"To protect everyone's rights, we're not going to comment. We are not going to discuss it," Jones said.
Chavez was appointed to the post in 2006 after his predecessor Eric Serna resigned after it was disclosed that a state government contractor had contributed $129,000 to a charity which was headed by Serna before he was ordered to resign from the Con Alma Health Foundation board.
In 2008, Sernas Deputy Insurance Superintendent Joe Ruiz was convicted for shaking down insurance companies and sentenced to four years in prison for corruption. His convictions were upheld by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals last month.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
While health care is snarled in Washington, two of New Mexico's congressional members say they're committed to getting the Indian Health Care Improvement Reauthorization and Extension Act passed during the second session of the 111th Congress. But, reaching an agreement on the act could be complicated after the election of Scott Brown to the senate last week.
"People don't know what's going to happen," Rep. Martin Heinrich said on Wednesday as he prepared to attend the president's State of the Union address. "There's a lot of uncertainty until we know exactly what the process is moving forward."
While there does not appear to be a clear path for the IHCIA, which expired eight years ago, both Heinrich and Sen. Tom Udall said that they are "ready to go at it again."
"The fact that the House and Senate have passed it in previous sessions -- I think -- means there's some good bi-partisan support for this," Udall said in a telephone interview. "We should be able to get it in the next version of health care [reform] as a freestanding bill or joined with something else -- depending on what other legislation comes up this year."
Indeed, the act, which was last reauthorized in 1992, appears to have support from people on both sides of the aisle.
"If we have health care reform it should include our first Americans," Heinrich said. "This is important to people from places like Alaska where their delegation is Republican, and it's important to people from places like New Mexico where we've got a Democratic delegation."
Living up to treaty obligations
Udall, a co-sponsor of the senate amendment that placed the IHCIA into health care reform package, has said it would allow the United States to “live up to its treaty obligations.”
“We can’t truly address the health care crisis in our country without improving health care for all of our citizens, and that includes the 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives whose health care is coordinated through this act,” Udall said last Fall.
In October, when it appeared the Democrats had the votes to pass health care, Heinrich sent this letter to house leaders and urged them to include the reauthorization act as part of comprehensive health insurance reform.
At the time, Heinrich wrote, "Our country desperately needs health insurance reform — but our pursuit of reform cannot leave Native Americans behind,” Heinrich said. “I represent tens of thousands of Native Americans in central New Mexico, and my constituents have made it clear that they cannot wait any longer for health care reform in Indian country.”
Heinrich insists he does not regret tying the measure to the comprehensive reform bill, because the House Natural Resources Committee, where he is a standing member, has already passed the IHCIA as a stand alone piece of legislation.
Udall said the IHCIA would be included in the senate's next version of health care -- either as a freestanding bill or joined with "something else of a health care nature depending on what other legislation comes up this year."
As a last resort, Udall said it could be attached to bills at the end of the year to "get things done that we all know need to be done."
Fixing health care disparities
"There's no doubt if you ask all 22 New Mexico tribes they'd say this is their top priority," Udall said. "There are very severe health care disparities on natives lands."
Remedying those disparities is why Udall insists the act needs to be reauthorized this year.
"The important thing is that the health care delivery system is underfunded," Udall said. "In the last 10 years there's been a rapid of health care technology. In this case we have outdated technology in place in many of these institutions. The update moves us forward in terms of prevention. It moves us forward on the diabetes and obesity epidemic. There are many things that move the health agenda forward for native Americans in this reauthorization and we need to get this done."
In fact, last December, on the senate floor, Udall said health care for Native Americans was in dismal shape and quoted from a Civil Rights Commission study that showed annual health care spending on Federal prison inmates was double the amount spent on American Indians.
"Inmates have better health care than the population with whom we signed treaties and made a promise to provide health services," Udall said. "Right now in Indian Country, the health care situation is dire. Native Americans are diagnosed with diabetes at almost three times the rate of any other ethnic group, they often don't have access to preventive care, and Native youth are attempting and committing suicide at alarming rates
Better chance for passage this year
The originial amendment authored by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.V., would reauthorize the program until 2025 and make the most urgent reforms to the program.
After attending the President Barack Obama's first State of the Union speech both Udall and Heinrich could feel a little better about their chances to get the act through congress this year after
Obama appeared to breath new life back into the health care debate during his speech on Wednesday night.
"Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people," Obama said. "Let's get it done. Let's get it done," he repeated.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Today, the Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman Javier Gonzales sent me an email, bolstered by some top Republicans supporting incumbent Auditor Hector Balderas, and called Errol's announcement "an unfortunate example of the Republican Party recruiting candidates who abandon races as soon as they start them."
“This is the kind of insider maneuvering that New Mexicans are sick of,” Gonzales said. “While Yates and Chavez sit around behind closed doors deciding which job they want next, our current State Auditor, Hector Balderas, has been working hard for the people of New Mexico, fighting government fraud, waste and abuse.
“By instituting the state's first fraud hotline and measures so all governments are annually held accountable for their spending, Balderas has proven that he will find innovative ways to protect New Mexicans," Gonzales continued. "New Mexicans deserve principled leaders who want to serve the public, not politicians who want to serve political insiders.”
Barbara Wold at Democracy for New Mexico reports Chairman Gonzales noted the irony in the fact that several prominent members of the Republican Party recently praised Auditor Balderas on the political blog, NMPolitics.net. Republican political blogger, Mario Burgos, was quoted as saying, “(Balderas) ... is leading the fight to get criminals behind bars. He seems to be doing his job well and with little concern whether the elected criminals have an R or D attached to their name.”
In addition, Republican House Minority Whip, Keith Gardner (R-Roswell), also applauded Balderas’ work, saying, “I may be partisan, but I’m more than willing to put politics aside when someone is doing a great job. Keep it up Mr. Auditor.” Now that's some mighty big praise, especially coming from the R side of the aisle.
In fact, Chavez was recently quoted in the NM Independent, explaining that “he considered running for Congress, but ultimately decided that his executive experience in law enforcement made land commissioner a better fit.”
The Republicans have not announced whether or not they will field statewide candidates for three offices, attorney general, secretary of state, or state treasurer.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
After putting 53,000 miles on his truck campaigning around the state for commissioner of public lands, Errol Chavez is switching races and will run for state auditor in 2010.
Chavez, 60, told us he was recruited by Republican State Party Chairman Harvey Yates because of his 36 years in law enforcement and his “ability to stop corruption in the state of New Mexico.”
The retired DEA agent, who lives in Las Cruces, said if he’s elected he will implement a priority targeting system, which he learned in classes at War College and used to root out criminals when he was assigned to manage High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDA).
For now, Chavez is the only Republican candidate vying for the auditor’s office. His website for land commissioner has been removed while it is being redesigned for the new campaign.
But, James Flores, a spokesman at the Secretary of State’s office in Santa Fe, told us that because Chavez is switching races he will have to collect a new round of qualifying petition signatures, and signatures he collected for the land commissioner’s campaign are not transferable.
Chavez, who grew up in Española, spent 31 years with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration before moving to Las Cruces in 2004 to be director of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program for the state. The program seeks to improve efforts by local, state and federal officials to stop drug trafficking through coordination and providing equipment, technology and other resources.
'I know how to prepare a case for a prosecution'
Chavez said he wants to “save the money the state is losing by going after people who are corrupt.”
“We’ve seen case after case recently of how people have gotten away with the crime because no one checked on them. And if they did check on them they couldn’t identify what was going on,” Chavez said. “I’m going to come in and I can evaluate the information that is there. I can develop a case and I know how to prepare a case for a prosecution. An effective prosecution means a success, and that’s the direction that I’m going.”
He wants people who are corrupt to "be fearful of being caught and prosecuted."
Corruption in New Mexico, he said “has become an acceptable practice. I want to stop that practice.”
Chavez would not say if he would support forensic audits on every state project with a budget over a certain dollar amount. Instead, he said there “are many ways to conduct an investigation.”
Chavez wants financial reports to be required from both public officials and state employees.
“As a Federal agent I had to routinely submit my financial disclosure reports to the attorney general’s office for review,” Chavez said. “We were monitored on the amount of money we made aside from our salaries and questioned every time there was a significant increase in our bank accounts. I think state employees should do the same thing.”
And Chavez didn’t waste anytime criticizing incumbent Auditor Hector Balderas.
“From my perspective there is a lot that could have been done that was not done, and that includes the state investment council,” Chavez said. “We had to be told from another state that we had a problem. Where was the state auditor on this?”
Chavez said he is pleased the party urged him to switch races.
“I’m in my element.”
Still two races without a candidate
At last check the Republican party did not have a candidate for state treasurer or secretary of state, but five people are running for governor, four are campaigning for lieutenant governor, and now three men are vying for commissioner of public lands.
Chavez said in the release, which was sent after we posted, that he's running for auditor "to ensure that government officials are using state taxpayer dollars wisely, not spending them in a wasteful, fraudulent or abusive manner.
“I am well equipped to perform the duties of this position and I pledge to use my experience to target criminal activity and expose any and all corruption revealed during the auditing process—for the good of the people of New Mexico.”
According to the release, Chavez has served as president of both the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association and the International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association, an international law enforcement organization with 12,000 members.
Note: We have audio from our interview with Chavez and will update this post shortly. Come back and hear why he disagrees, as a former DEA agent, with former Gov. Gary Johnson about the war on drugs.
Photo: MG Bralley
Monday, January 25, 2010
While in the Granite state, Johnson talked with the New Hampshire Watchdog.org about taxes and spending and warned GOP officials not get "to get cocky over the election of Scott Brown" to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts, arguing that voter frustration extends to both parties.
Johnson, who has drawn attention for his stand on ending the "War on Drugs, continues to criticize government officials for "outrageous" spending.
Johnson told the NH Watchdog.org he's trying to bring Tea Party and Libertarian activists back into the Republican fold.
In fact, he said he believes "working within the two-party system is a faster and more productive way to shrink the federal government."
After telling about sixty supporters that his campaign will be about "building a better New Mexico" he sat down with us to talk about ethics, campaign reporting, the state's budget deficit, and a host of other issues.
We aksed Rael if he win's the primary in June, and the general election in November, how he'll use his two plus decades in government and public service to build coalitions in Santa Fe.
Rael is running in the Democratic primary against former state Democratic Party Chairman Brian Colón, State Rep. Joe Campos of Santa Rosa and state Sens. Linda Lopez and Jerry Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque. Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano withdrew from the race last month.
Five Republicans have announced their candidacies for lieutenant governor — state Sen. Kent Cravens of Albuquerque, 2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate J.R. Damron, former state Rep. Brian Moore of Clayton, 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee John Sanchez. Albuquerque nurse Bea Sheridan has dropped out of the race.
As our State Legislature convenes in Santa Fe, many legislators have offered several proposals to raise revenue for our budget deficit by raising taxes on the poor by increasing taxes on food. We’ve also seen proposals to tax the “rich” by raising income taxes. There’s even talk of raising our gross receipts tax on business. I am amazed that our elected officials would even consider raising taxes during a time of recession in our state.
What the Richardson-Denish administration and the Democrat led State Legislature fail to see is that higher taxes won’t create more revenue, it will create less. If they raise the tax on food, people will shop less and go hungry more often. If they raise income taxes, people will move out of the state and look for a new job. If they raise the gross receipts tax, businesses will have to find ways to make up the financial hit and that usually means they will layoff some employees or take their company and their jobs to a state that is more business-friendly. According to a report from the NM Department of Workforce Solutions, New Mexico lost over 43,000 jobs in 2009. We can’t afford to lose more jobs by raising taxes.
The easiest way to raise revenue is to create jobs. More jobs mean more people paying income taxes, buying more food, and more businesses doing more work which increases the state’s revenue from the gross receipts tax. The most likely place for new jobs to be created is in the area of energy, both traditional forms like oil and natural gas and by creating a new energy economy to include wind, solar, clean coal, biogas, hydro and eventually nuclear.
Unfortunately for New Mexico, the same Legislature that wants to raise your taxes, has also created over-burdensome regulations on energy that have attributed to the 43,000 jobs lost and will continue to cause more people to lose their job if steps are not taken to ratify the situation.
Revise the Pit Rule instead of raising taxes
Instead of raising your taxes, the State Legislature needs to take a look at revising the “pit rule” policy created by the Oil Conservation Division. This policy is not law, but it has effectively killed thousands of jobs in the oil, natural gas, and mining industries. This rule adds an additional $150,000-$250,000 to the price of every well a company drills, depending on which part of the state the company drills. If we eased the regulation, a company could spend that $250,000 to create eight jobs that pay over $15 an hour. That was just for drilling one well. Ideally, these companies could hire more people and do more energy exploration. The company would pay more gross receipts taxes, the new employees would pay income taxes and could afford to buy more food for their families. The tax revenue created would help the budget crisis and with oil and natural gas prices recovering, a percentage of the revenue from the minerals would go into the Land Grant Permanent Fund which funds Pre-K through 12th grade education and our colleges in New Mexico.
Along with the revised regulations, I am proposing that the State Land Commissioner work with climatologists and geologists to locate ideal areas for the creation of “green job zones”. These studies would allow us to target areas of state land where renewables like solar and wind could produce the most energy. With the proposed Tres Amigas power plant outside of Clovis connecting major electrical grids and the Legislature’s mandate that local utility companies use 20% renewable energy to create electricity, there is an already made market demand for renewable energy businesses to come in, create thousands of jobs and produce billions of dollars of new revenue for this state.
This could all be accomplished in this 30 day session of the State Legislature. Instead of arguing over which taxes to raise and on whom taxes will be raised, the Legislature could be working to foster a climate for job growth and real revenue enhancements. We can solve this budget crisis by being proactive and taking a new way forward, instead of trying the old failed policies of the past.
The plan is simple: More Energy, More Jobs, More Revenue.
Petraeus, 57, who served as the Commanding General of the Multi-National Force in Iraq for 19 months, is credited with changing the tide of the Iraq war by working with Iraqi forces to establish a persistent presence in Iraq's most threatened neighborhoods. He also noted the critical importance of helping Iraq increase its governmental capacity, develop employment programs, and improve daily life for its citizens.
“We are extremely fortunate to be able to bring General David Petraeus to speak at this year’s Annual Meeting,” the chamber's new Chair-elect Pat Vincent-Collawn said. “As a scholar, soldier and leader who has devoted his life to the service of his nation, General Petraeus embodies commitment to duty and sacrifice. We look forward with great excitement to both honoring his accomplishments and learning from his wisdom."
Chamber President Teri cole said the general is a "great example of using strategic leadership during tough times."
“He was able to take a bad situation in Iraq and orchestrate a turn-around - just like many business leaders have had to do over the past year in this challenging economy," Cole said.
In addition to his long list of military awards and decorations, General Petraeus was recognized by the U.S. News and World Report in 2005 as one of America’s 25 Best Leaders, and in 2007 he was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential leaders of the year and one of four runners-up for Time Person of the Year. Most recently, he was selected by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world’s top 100 public intellectuals and by Esquire magazine as one of the 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century.
For more information, on the July 21st luncheon, and to purchase tickets, visit www.abqchamber.com or call 505-764-3722.
“As a certified petroleum geologist and independent oil and gas producer, my domestic and international experience gives me considerable advantage over those with no such expertise,” Vassilopoulous wrote in an e-mail received by NMPolitics.net.
In 2008, Vassilopoulos, a political newcomer, campaigned briefly for Sen. Pete Domenici's seat after the six-term senator announced his retirement, but dropped out of the race after then Rep. Steve Pearce entered the race.
Vassilopoulos has hired Daniel Garza has his campaign manager, and Max Sanchez to be his treasurer.
Vassilopoulos said he's confident he will have enough petition signatures and will file with the secretary of state's office on February 9th.
In the Republican pre-primary race, Vassilopoulos will face Jim Jackson, who took a leave of absence from the state land office to campaign for the post, cattle rancher Matt Rush, retired law-enforcement officer Errol Chavez, and GOP activist Bob Cornelius in the state's pre-primary nominating convention on March 13 in Albuquerque.
Four candidates have entered the Democratic primary, including Santa Fe County Commissioners Harry Montoya and Mike Anaya, PRC Commissioner Sandy Jones, and former commissioner of public lands Ray Powell.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
“These are tough times, and the recession means we must be focused and aggressive in reviving our struggling economy. This is why I believe we must use our economic resources to invest in local businesses” Hart Stebbins said in a news release. “I strongly believe we have a responsibility to use our taxpayer dollars wisely. This means we must get rid of fraud and abuse that siphon money from crucial public services.”
Since Hart Stebbins appointment in May, she has promoted smarter water use and helped pass the recent water reuse and conservation initiatives that save 400 million gallon of water a year; she’s made prescription medicines more affordable by restoring the Bernalillo County Prescription Drug Discount Card; to reduce drunk driving she’s worked with local businesses to expand the county’s Safe Ride Program; and worked to fix county jail problems and has worked with jail staff, community leaders and service providers to help break the cycle of crime and incarceration.