NM State Supreme Court To Look At Death Penalty In Astorga Case

From KOAT-TV.com - SANTA FE, N.M. -- The state Supreme Court will consider whether New Mexico can impose the death penalty on an Albuquerque man for killing a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy. The court on Thursday scheduled a hearing for Sept. 1 on legal questions about the upcoming sentencing of Michael Astorga for the 2006 killing of Deputy James McGrane Jr. Astorga's lawyer says the repeal of the death penalty in 2009 should be considered by a jury in deciding whether to sentence his client to death or life in prison. Astorga was convicted last year. Read more


Monahan:Albuquerque's Woeful Economy Still The Big Story

From New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan - The flat-lined, dead-in-the-water ABQ economy continues. Even the perennially optimistic spokesmen for the local real estate and home building biz are throwing in the towel. There is no job creation--none--and it is simply killing housing, aways a key economic driver in the state's largest city. Building homes and adding population and jobs has been the unobstructed path for city growth for over sixty years--until now. On the street level, small businesses continue to struggle. Revenue into the city remains anemic. Economic development plans are nonexistent, half-baked or enigmatic. Local government hiring remains essentially frozen. The same for the public schools. Part-time work is more common as workers across-the-board see their hours cut. The food stamp and Medicaid programs are seeing record enrollments and the food banks are doing brisk business helping the cash-strapped. The candles continue to be lighted at the churches in the low income areas of ABQ as folks turn to a higher power for help in their job searches. The ongoing brouhaha over illegal immigration also seems a relic of the past. Countless news reports show illegal border crossings into NM and elsewhere have evaporated. That's simple. When there are no jobs, they will not come. Many business owners and employers are frustrated, angry or even scared. The politicians around here are bobbing and weaving, hoping that the blame stays squarely with Washington. New Mexico is stagnating and it has been stagnating for two years. We need to get past emotional issues like driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, voter fraud allegations that turn out to be a mirage and other politically polarizing issues that keep the consultants busy but do nothing to create jobs or help our businesses make more money so they can add to their work forces. Read more

Rio Arriba County: controversial Velarde Mine now under county eye

From the Rio Grande Sun - By Andrew Kasper - In a precedent-setting move, state Land Commissioner Ray Powell has given the Rio Arriba County Commission regulating powers over a controversial sand and gravel mine in Velarde. But opponents of the mine fear the Commission will be hesitant to impose its new power because of a potential conflict of interest. The mine, operated by EspaƱola businessman Richard Cook, is located on state trust land and adjacent private land owned by Cook, Powell said. In years past it has been a flashpoint between local residents, the County Commission and the state Land Office, under the control of former commissioner Pat Lyons. Residents complained of diesel fumes, noise, unsafe traffic, dust and other nuisances caused by the trucks hauling the sand and gravel from the site and by the mining work itself. The mine site also came under scrutiny from state agencies, and Cook faced fines from the state Environment Department and was forced to remediate a high and unsafe wall of earth left by mining operations. Residents gathered over 400 signatures on a petition in 2007 opposing the mine, and the Commission passed a resolution in 2009 against the mine’s expansion and any further activity. But because of the mine’s location on state land, the commissioners were powerless to regulate or halt its operation. Read more


US undertaking review on deportation; many undocumented immigrants may be allowed to stay

NewsNM - Swickard: I really feel for the plight of people coming from Mexico where the foundation of government has been taken over by the Drug Cartels. If this is not good, at least let us streamline what people who want to join us, the U. S. and work in our country. From the El Paso Times - By ALICIA A. CALDWELL, Associated Press - WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration said Thursday it will allow many undocumented immigrants facing deportation the chance to stay in this country and apply for a work permit, while focusing on removing from the U.S. convicted criminals and those who might be a national security or public safety threat. That will mean a case-by-case review of approximately 300,000 undocumented immigrants facing possible deportation in federal immigration courts, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in announcing the policy change. Advocates for an immigration overhaul have said that the administration, by placing all undocumented immigrants in the same category for deportation, has failed to live up to its promise to only deport the "worst of the worst," as President Barack Obama has said. "From a law enforcement and public safety perspective, DHS enforcement resources must continue to be focused on our highest priorities," Napolitano wrote a group of senators supporting new immigration legislation. Read more


Planes, Trains and....What's Next? Automobiles?

Bill Richardson
Before a train (Rail Runner) was losing millions of New Mexico taxpayer's dollars, millions were being lost on planes. A walk down memory lane reminds us that thanks to investments by the State of New Mexico under the urging of Governor Bill Richardson (and incentives/concessions from the City of Albuquerque, encouraged by former Mayor Martin Chavez) Eclipse Aviation decided to move its production facilities to Albuquerque in 2000. In 2006 Eclipse and its CEO Vern Raburn both made substantial campaign contributions to Bill Richardson. By October of 2007 the writing was on the wall. Both Governor Richardson and Mayor Chavez had miscalculated badly.....with taxpayer dollars. Eclispse laid-off between 100-150 contract workers and employees. Then a month later a subcontractor, Hampson Aerospace, which built the tail assembly for the Eclipse 500, filed a suit against Eclipse alleging that Eclipse had not paid them for work completed.
In August 2008, Eclipse announced the laying off of 650 of its workforce of 1800 people and a week later Pratt and Whitney - Canada repossessed 24 engines sold to Eclipse. Within a year many Eclipse customers filed law suits against the company for failure to return deposits for cancelled and delayed orders. The company indicated that due to lack of funding it was not in a position to return deposits.
Marty Chavez
In November 2008, Eclipse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Bankruptcy documents indicated that a total of $702.6 million was owed and the court documents filed indicated that the bankruptcy occurred because the company "continued to lose larger than expected sums of money on each aircraft manufactured and has not reached cash flow positive in its operations." Total company liabilities were estimated at over USD 1 billion.
How quick did the legislature move in the good old days when Richardson spotted a can't miss deal for the state? The House and Senate joined hands to repeal the gross receipts taxes on aircraft sales within six days and New Mexico eventually invested $20 million of taxpayer dollars in Eclipse. The state also "gave" the company 150 acres of free land for an assembly plant as well as an abatement of sales and property taxes for 20 years. Eventually the state's investment got wiped out. However, by then Governor Richardson had already moved on to a much bigger loser taxpayer's loser, the Rail Runner. In 2011 not only are taxpayers seeing their investments stranded in a train operation. Millions in productive assets have been taken of the tax rolls. Taxpayers are also swallowing huge operating losses by the Rail Runner on an ongoing basis. When will New Mexican citizens demand the state's elected officials cut ongoing taxpayer losses by the Rail Runner and move on? Some are already doing so.


What Buffett Writes Now Versus Then Part III

Warren Buffett
This the third part of a four part series on Warren Buffett's op-ed piece earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal. Buffett instructs Congress: “Job one for the 12 [Congressional leaders] is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here.” Amazingly, Buffett offers this broad generalization as a “solution” without offering any specific policy changes regarding how these government “promises” should be revoked. And in doing so, Buffett eerily dodges the specifics like almost every politician anyone has ever voted for at the national level in the last eight decades. Once Warren Buffett skips all specifics of undoing federal government promises that cannot possibly be kept, he seems compelled to stand aside so our government can be allowed to continue to get bigger and fatter. Here is the prose: “The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.”
In other words, Buffett suggests we leave as is, an incentive structure wherein 51% of all American households have no skin in the game but full entitlement to benefits. He also offers no suggestions for social security, implying that funds designated for retirement should continue to go directly into the government coffers instead of a segregated retirement account.
Buffett continues: “But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.” Is it a coincidence that Buffett can be expected to continue to keep most of his personal capital gains unrealized and therefore not taxable? Additionally, Buffett has clearly left the federal government off his favorite charity list. The billions of dollars worth of Berkshire stock he now owns, that has never been taxed for the gains (twice), will eventually go to a tax-exempt foundation. Ironically, Buffett calls for the federal government to be the compulsory favorite charity for everyone who may decide to record capital gains on their holdings or pass them on to loved ones.
Buffett finishes his piece as follows: “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.” Buffett’s unwillingness to coddle would be more impressive if he refused to coddle a big, fat, and bloated federal government. Buffett has low expectations from government managers in a way that no Berkshire manager could possibly imagine.
On the surface this piece is puzzling. Why would Buffett argue for the continuation of incentive structures that are clearly failing while neglecting to provide any specifics on the $64 trillion question of how to unwind promises that will be impossible to keep? Tommorow in the fourth and final part of this series we will try to explain the motivations of Buffett who is now eighty years old.


Reader's Comments on Solar Arrays

NewNM note - This is a comment posted by one of our listeners on PNM going solar. We felt it was worth posting and worth reading.
5 MW rated capacity is the equivalent of a 1 MW generator running full-time, because a fixed-angle solar PV system has a capacity factor (cf) of 20%. So this 5 MW PV system will generate approx 8,766 MWh per year. Since PNM owns this system and uses all the power themselves, they are not required to report the actual power generated to the FERC, so we will never know exactly how much power is being generated.
Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington
Another misleading statement is the "supply about 1,600 average NM homes." Per PNM's Aug 11 news release about new ratres going into effect, the average residence in their area uses 600 kWh per month, or 7,200 kWh per year. So 8,766 MWh/yr divided by 7,200 kWh/yr = 1271 homes, three-quarters of "1,600 homes." Even the calculated 1,266 homes is a misleading number, because 0 homes are powered by this (or any) PV system at night or during cloudy conditions. All this 5 MW (rated) PV system does is appease some people who think that it is causing a measurable reduction in pollution and CO2. The power from this system will not reduce the output from a single coal-fired power plant anywhere. All it will do is slightly reduce the fuel used by PNM's most expensive power source, such as the two 40 MW simple- (aka open-) gas turbines at the Lordsburg power plant. The photo is of a dual-axis tracking solar PV system, which gets about 40% higher power output (28% capacity factor), but requires motors and tracking systems that have to be maintained.

PNM Goes Solar

Deming Headlight - Aug. 18--Luna County's largest photovoltaic solar array and latest alternative energy project officially kicked off Wednesday as Public Service Company of New Mexico hosted various local, state and federal officials. The 50-acre, 5-megawatt facility is located south of town off Highway 11 on Coyote Road. The 78,000 solar panels comprising the Deming Solar Energy Center are capable of producing enough energy to supply about 1,600 average New Mexico homes. The solar farm is the third of five solar facilities PNM is constructing across the state. Facilities in Albuquerque and Los Lunas have been online since spring and two more facilities in Alamogordo and Las Vegas, NM, are scheduled for completion this fall. Read full story here: News New Mexico

83 Percent of NM Grads Need Remedial Work

Capitol Report New Mexico - According to a national survey released Wednesday (Aug. 17) by the non-profit testing organization ACT, a whopping 75 percent of all US high school graduates will likely need to take at least one remedial class, brushing up on high school-level work, when they enter college. The number for New Mexico is worse: 83 percent need to take at least one remedial class. The ACT report comes after 13,599 New Mexico high school graduates took the ACT, which — along with the SAT — is one of the most widely-used entrance examinations that colleges and universities measure for incoming freshman. The ACT survey measured English, math, reading and science and New Mexico finished in the bottom seven states (plus the District of Columbia) in all four categories, with just 17 percent expected to need no remedial classes in the four categories in the study: News New Mexico

Artesia City Limits a Huge Utility Bill Boundary

KOB TV - People who live just outside of Artesia city limits are furious about a dramatic increase in their utility bills. In some cases, they will be charged an extra $800 or more a year for some city services. The city offers sewer, trash collection and water for people living just outside the city limits. Residents recently received a notice that they could no longer pick and choose what services they wanted. Many of the residents living just west of Artesia survive on fixed incomes near the poverty level. Now county residents have to bundle their services and they have to get trash collection. The new trash collection service comes with new fees. According to the notice given by the city, residents will be charged $26 a month for trash service if they sign a contract that allows the city to annex their property some time in the future. For residents who do not sign the contract, they will pay $41 a month just for trash collection. An additional $30 a month fee will be charged for trash collection and water delivery outside city boundaries. "We're charged $41 for trash, $15 for water, and $15 for sewer extra, a month, on our water bill and we can't afford that, no body can," Jamie Perez said. Read full story here: News New Mexico

Details Emerge in Block Scandal

Jerome Block Jr.
Santa Fe New Mexican - Just before 8 a.m. on May 17, 2010, Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. pulled away from the three-way stop at Pacheco Street and Camino de Monte Rey in his 2006 Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle and passed another vehicle, a city traffic citation shows. Reports state a city police officer pulled over Block and issued a ticket for careless driving, noting that the "roadway after the 3 way stop has a slope with a curve making it hard to see traffic." Block never responded to the ticket, ignoring a summons to show up at Santa Fe Municipal Court. As a result, on July 6, 2010, Block's driver's license was suspended for failure to appear, according to court documents filed recently by the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. More than a year later, Block still hasn't taken care of the careless-driving citation, adding yet another challenge to the troubles piling up on the 34-year-old elected official, who this week publicly acknowledged he's struggling with a prescription-drug addiction. "All he needs to do is come on in and appear before the judge," Santa Fe Municipal Court records custodian Sharon Romero said Wednesday. "But he hasn't done that." It's unclear why Block, who also has missed about a third of the Public Regulation Commission's meetings this year, never responded to the summons to appear in court or why he never took care of the ticket in the months following. Block couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. To be sure, Block confronts much larger problems. The Northern New Mexico Democrat, already under indictment for alleged misusing public funds in his 2008 election campaign, has come under pressure from both major political parties to resign his $90,000-a-year post as his troubles have snowballed. Read full story here: News New Mexico

85% of Americans Say - WRONG WAY

Rasmussen - Just 15% of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken the week ending Sunday, August 14. The latest finding is down a point from a week ago, 10 points from a month ago and 20 points from a year ago. Since the third week in July, the number of voters who are confident in the nation’s current course has resembled levels measured in the final months of the Bush administration. When President Obama assumed office in January 2009, optimism rose to 27% and climbed to the low to mid 30s – peaking at 40% -- until May 2009. That figure has steadily declined since. Eighty percent (80%) of voters say the country is heading down the wrong track. That ties the highest level measured in three-years. Since January 2009, voter pessimism had ranged from 57% to 63%. Most Republicans (92%) and voters not affiliated with either political party (84%) believe the country is heading down the wrong track. Even a majority (63%) of Democrats now say the country is heading in the wrong direction. Read full story here: News New Mexico

What Buffett Writes Now Versus Then Part II

Warren Buffett
This is the second in a series of commentaries regarding an op-ed piece by legendary investor Warren Buffett on tax policies. Buffett continues: “The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes.” This statement may be true. However, it is only true if the mega-rich are doing what we want them to do, which is to re-deploy capital that has already been taxed at least twice. While it is true the mega-rich might pay practically “nothing” in payroll taxes, it is also true that if they do not fully fund their payroll tax contributions, they will collect “practically nothing” in social security benefits on amounts that are not subjected to payroll taxation.
Buffett suggests as follows: “It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.” With this statement, Buffett is describing the structure of incentives or lack thereof to accumulate wealth and capital. Not pointing out that heavy payroll taxes should actually be characterized as heavy contributions for future retirement benefits misses the point of payroll taxes. And it is our collective unwillingness to exert control over Washington that converts “heavy” payroll taxes from what should be retirement plan contributions, into the largest compulsory ponzi financing scheme in the history of civilization.
Buffett continues: “Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends. I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off.”
This is perhaps the most remarkable statement of Buffett’s entire op-ed piece. Here we must never be convinced of Buffett’s convictions, simply based on what he says about politics and policies. Instead, we should pay close attention to what Buffett has written in his letters to shareholders over the years and what he has actually done as a prudent and intelligent investor. While Buffett has never shied away from an attractive investment based capital gains tax rates, Buffett has gone to great lengths to provide detailed mathematical illustrations that reveal why deferring taxes for very long periods of time (if not forever) leads to more rapid wealth accumulation. Many times in his letters to shareholders, Buffett has explained the great wisdom of MINIMIZING the triggering of capital gain tax liabilities.
His accounting explanations of Berkshire’s unrealized capital gains go on to the point of nausea in many of his letters to shareholders. However, Buffett’s devoted followers have lapped those cap gain deferral passages up, and most have not forgotten them.
Buffett continues in his piece: “And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.” This statement is startling. It plays blazing fast and plenty loose with the historical fact that the most dramatic income tax rate cuts in history came under Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s. Those rate cuts led to the longest peacetime expansion in history and also the remarkable job creation statistics Buffett cites.
Ronald Reagan
Buffett says: “Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.” What Buffett does not point out within these data points is that most of these gains in income were from the capital gains and the income taxes paid by these filers soared from $4.93 billion in 1992 to $19.54 billion in 2008. The government’s revenue glass is half full, it is not half empty. And it is half full with nearly fifteen billion additional tax dollars from the mega rich. Why the obsession with rates?
Buffett goes personal: “The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income.” Here again we find Buffett trying to get his op-ed piece readers to separate social security benefits from actually paying social security taxes. The most relevant factor here is that income that does not contribute payroll taxes is also not entitled to a social security benefit.
Jimmy Carter
Buffett softens his rhetorical attack on a group that paid nearly $15 billion dollars in income taxes this way: “I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.” The amazing aspect of this statement by Buffett is that even philanthropy itself is NOT taxable. And we cannot help but be reminded that philanthropy contributes NOTHING to federal income tax revenues. Tomorrow we will finish with part III of this series.