New tax bracket, fewer deductions for wealthiest people

From The Carlsbad Current Argus - by Carole Feldman, Associated Press - A new top tax rate, higher Medicare taxes and the phaseout of deductions and exemptions could mean higher tax bills for wealthier Americans this year. Legally wed same-sex couples, meanwhile, may find the true meaning of the marriage penalty.
      All taxpayers will have a harder time taking medical deductions.
      In other changes for the 2013 tax year, the alternative minimum tax has been patched — permanently — to prevent more middle-income people from being drawn in, and there's a simpler way to compute the home office deduction.
      Tax rate tables and the standard deduction have been adjusted for inflation, as has the maximum contribution to retirement accounts, including 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts, or IRAs.
      The provisions were set by Congress last January as part of legislation to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts. “We finally got some certainty for this year,” said Greg Rosica, a contributing author to Ernst & Young's “EY Tax Guide 2014.”
      Nevertheless, the filing season is being delayed because of the two-week partial government shutdown last October. The Internal Revenue Service says it needs the extra time to ensure that systems are in place and working. People will be able to start filing returns Jan. 31, a week and a half later than the original Jan. 21 date.
      “People who are used to filing early in order to get a quick refund are just going to have to wait,” said Barbara Weltman, a contributing editor to the tax guide “J.K. Lasser's Your Income Tax 2014.”
      No change in the April 15 deadline, however. That's set by law and will remain in place, the IRS says. Read more

Study shows large number of NM students need remediation

A new study says more than half of the New Mexico students attending the state's colleges and universities aren't ready academically and that it's costly for the state. 
The student study released by the Legislative Finance Committee says 51 percent of the students needed remedial courses last year and that the cost was $22 million. 
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the study says remediation rates haven't changed in the past seven years. Nearly half of the remedial coursework is in math. Most of the rest was in English and reading.


NM ranks last in child well being for 2nd time

As in 2013 when the Kids Count Report came out, New Mexico was yet again ranked last in terms of child well-being for 2014. 

The report was released Tuesday, a day in which legislators gathered at the Roundhouse for Gov. Susana Martinez’s State of the State Address. Many of them the say state needs to move up in these rankings. 

New Mexico Voices for Children executive director Veronica Garcia says the legislature needs to make the appropriate investments in children. 

Nearly one-third of New Mexico’s children live in poverty, according to the report. Sixty percent live in low-income families. More than a third have parents without secure employment. 

The report was released at the state capitol Tuesday in an effort to get lawmakers’ attention.


State SUPCO to review abuse and neglect law

The New Mexico Supreme Court has agreed to review a recent court decision narrowing who must report suspected cases of abuse and neglect. 
State law requires "every person" to contact authorities about suspected abuse and neglect. 
However, the state Court of Appeals ruled last November in an Albuquerque case that the law's wording means the requirement only applies to 10 categories of people, including physicians, teachers and nurses. 
The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Supreme Court granted a request by the state Attorney General's Office for a review of the Court of Appeals ruling. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Susana Martinez has said she wants the Legislature to change the law immediately to clarify the reporting obligation.


Sec. of Interior to visit southern NM

Sally Jewell
On Friday, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will join New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich in a visit to the Organ Mountains region of south-central New Mexico

While there, Jewell will spend time exploring the area and will attend a public meeting hosted by Senators Udall and Heinrich regarding the community’s vision to preserve, protect and enhance some of the public lands located in Doña Ana County.  

At the invitation of the two Senators, Jewell will join Udall and Heinrich, as well as Principal Deputy Director at the Bureau of Land Management Neil Kornze, for a public listening session on the community’s conservation priorities in the area. 

 The community meeting will take place Friday at 3pm at the Ramada Palms Las Cruces.