A prosperous new future for New Mexico starts with investing in education. In recent decades, our state has kept college tuition lower than our neighboring states, supported programs like the Lottery Scholarship, and made sure community colleges, branch campuses, and tribal universities can serve communities across our state. All of that is threatened, however, as the state budget process is politicized and funding for higher education is held hostage. When you look at examples of state disinvestment in higher education across the nation, you see that cutting budgets for higher education leads directly to tuition increases, which are essentially tax hikes on students and their families. At a time when we need to be investing in the next generation of New Mexico leaders and innovators, we cannot afford to make our state’s college students foot the bill for short-sighted decisions.
One morning in February, lawyer Marty Rosenbluth set off from his Hillsborough, North Carolina, home to represent two anxious clients in court. He drove about eight hours southwest, spent the night in a hotel and then got up around 6 a.m. to make the final 40-minute push to his destination: a federal immigration court and detention center in the tiny rural Georgia town of Lumpkin. During two brief hearings over two days, Rosenbluth said, he convinced an immigration judge to grant both of his new clients more time to assess their legal options to stay in the United States. Then he got in his car and drove the 513 miles back home. “Without an attorney, it’s almost impossible to win your case in the immigration courts.
Funding for New Mexico’s colleges and universities, which was vetoed by the governor following this year’s regular legislative session, will soon be restored, ending the confusion and consternation that has bedeviled students and faculty for months. The Legislature, which will either restore funding for higher education in the special session or win in court to overturn the governor’s veto of its funding, will return its attention to creating jobs and repairing New Mexico’s ailing economy. As a retired college president and, before that, a public school superintendent, I understand the problems our colleges and universities are facing with absolutely no funding as of July 1. Students are reconsidering plans to enroll; professors, instructors and support staff have no assurance that they will have jobs after July 1; and the reputation of New Mexico’s higher education system suffers across the country. The only good news is that the Legislature is committed to restoring funding for our colleges and universities — without any strings attached.
Around the hood many believe that Bill Peifer, Bernalillo Democratic Party Chair colorblind comments made last week, while very offensive and demeaning, may actually be a clue as to why a Democratic-majority State Legislature failed to provide funding to the state’s African American Performing Art Center. Although they had no problem appropriating funding from the budget for both the Hispanic and the Native American Culture centers. And it is not the first time in a session the Legislature has totally dismissed projects and/or items specific to the black community. The center bears the name of House Majority Leader Sheryl William Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, who happens to be black. Sorry, my bad, that’s right you’re colorblind.
Recently—and very quietly—the state Public Education Department (PED) appears to have cut $3 million or more from a popular summer learning program for young children ages 5 to 8 set to begin next month. As a result, 6,100 fewer children across New Mexico will receive classroom instruction that is proven to narrow the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers, increase skills, and improve student test scores. The state-funded K–3 Plus initiative is innovative – and it works. PED’s decision to slash funding for it is morally wrong and should be reversed. K–3 Plus extends the school year for children entering kindergarten through third grade by 25 instructional days beginning in the summer before school starts, in eligible schools.
One of the men who helped the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) search for potential targets in a sweeping undercover drug and gun sting operation in Albuquerque last year is paid an $80,000 annual salary, court filings show. The man appears to have been released early from a 10-year federal prison sentence and goes “around the country with his handlers creating crime for the government to prosecute” as a ‘“confidential informant,” the documents say. Related: Feds’ sting ensnared many ABQ blacks, not ‘worst of the worst’
Another informant ATF brought to Albuquerque for the operation is paid $1,400 a week plus occasional “bonuses,” he said under oath, according to a recording from a state court hearing obtained by New Mexico In Depth. He did not say what the bonuses were for. That informant considers working for the ATF his full-time job.
The tax hikes are coming fast and furious these days in the Land of (dis)Enchantment. During the 2017 legislative session, numerous tax hike bills were considered. Several passed. Gov. Martinez vetoed them, but with New Mexico’s budget facing an ongoing crisis, the likelihood of higher taxes – including a 10 cent/gallon gas tax hike – looms large. A special session has been called for May 24 and Democrats who control the Legislature can again be counted on to push very hard for higher taxes.
For three days Yusef Casanova hunted for methamphetamine and a gun. On June 4, 2016, a friend met a man in the heart of a hardscrabble area of Albuquerque pocked with pawn shops but dotted with well-loved front yards. They stood outside the Allsup’s convenience store at Zuni Road and Kentucky Street SE. The stranger wanted meth, firearms; the friend brought Casanova in. Like Casanova and his friend, the man was black.
Employees of companies that do business with the city, and a few of those companies themselves, donated more than $74,000 to Albuquerque mayoral candidates through the end of March, an analysis by New Mexico In Depth found. That’s more than twice the amount the city found in an official report submitted last week, which was required within 48 hours of the latest campaign finance deadline. In 2007, Albuquerque voters approved a ban on corporate contributions and contributions from city contractors. But a 2013 lawsuit overturned those bans. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission.
The governor vetoed the entire higher education budget totaling almost $3 billion, along with the entire budget for the Legislature, to force lawmakers back to Santa Fe for a special legislative session to redo the state spending plan for the budget year that starts on July 1 and to overhaul the gross receipts tax system. She says she is against raising taxes on New Mexicans but willing to allow some new revenue to support the budget. We’ve seen “no tax” pledges coupled with deeps cuts to higher education in other states and how distressing the combination has been to students, families, and communities. Patricia Lundstrom is a Democratic state Representative from the 9th District. For years, a number of governors have pitted higher education against corporate and other tax cuts to spectacular and devastating results.