Vote YES To Insure Safe And Functional APS School Buildings

Sara Attleson has been an educator in for 42 years and with the Albuquerque Public School System (APS) for 35 years.

Below is a guest column from Sarah Attleson solicited by this blog regarding the February 5, 2019 APS mail ballot initiative for funding for the refurbishment, remodeling and replacement of APS schools:

“Voting is currently underway for the Albuquerque Public Schools Special All-Mail Ballot Election for Mill Levies and Bond.

The Albuquerque Teachers Federation (ATF) has endorsed a YES vote for this election. The union knows that public education is the cornerstone of a democracy and it knows that the working conditions of teachers are their students’ learning conditions.

The Central Labor Council has also passed a motion which supports a YES vote for public education. The Carpenters Union Local 1319 supports the bond election and knows that a YES vote can help turn bonds into buildings, buildings into training, and provide construction careers. Labor strongly supports a Vote YES for public education.

As in any campaign, voters are exposed to real facts as well as manufactured “facts” and it is critical to have informed voters in this election. One fact is that the average age of an APS school is 50 years old and a Vote Yes will mean that necessary repairs and improvements can be made.

Students throughout the district are out in their neighborhoods talking to voters on what a YES vote would mean to them. They are counting on voters to do the right thing and show that they support safe and comfortable learning environments. When voters say they support students and a NO vote, they are really saying that they are voting against resources which students need in order to compete in a global marketplace.

Former governor, Susana Martinez was never a fan of APS. The Board and superintendent pushed back on her punitive policies and her supporters are spreading incorrect information so that she gets a last attack on APS administrators. Part of her supporters’ false message is that the administration of APS is top-heavy.

APS is the 40th largest district in the country and a recent audit shows that actually is not the case. The incorrect information continues by stating that money will go to administrators only and never reach the classroom. This is a blatant myth and a vote NO based on this misinformation is simply an excuse to vote against public education.

A vote YES on all three questions would raise $900 million over six years.

The first question is asking a public-school capital improvements tax of two dollars per thousand dollars of taxable value.

The second question is asking to tax of $4.83 per thousand dollars of taxable value on residential property and $5.34 per thousand dollars on taxable value on non-residential property.

The third question is a $200 million-dollar general obligation bond authorization.

Those who oppose public education are turning the actual figures into false numbers. They are claiming that seniors will lose their homes and others are going to have to take out a loan to pay for the tax increase. This is ridiculously false. The average person will pay $100 a year. That is a small price to pay so that students are safe and are in a comfortable environment with needed resources.

The last time that APS asked the voters to vote on a Bond was in 2006. During this time 152 projects were completed. In most places this is called responsible administration. The repairs, remodeling, and rebuilding are in all areas of the district. It is not true that areas such as the South Valley are ignored. This is just another worn-out myth.

A vote YES will make sure that students have not only safe and functional buildings but also access to musical instruments, library books, technology, science kits, art equipment and classroom furniture. These are not luxuries but are essential to teaching and learning. I know this because I am a teacher-librarian in an APS school.

My colleagues and I are voting YES for our students and our profession.

I have joined my fellow ATF members in a campaign to get out the YES votes.

We are in these buildings every day and we know first-hand how critical a vote YES is to keep our schools standing and functioning.

We know the difference between the actual facts and those manufactured ones.

We know that a vote YES is a vote for public education and we know that public education is the cornerstone of our democracy.”

Sincerely yours,

Sara Attleson
APS School Liberian
Albuquerque Teachers Federation

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Attleson has been an educator in for 42 years.

She studied Library Science at University of Southern California.

Ms. Attleson has had remarkable 35 career with the Albuquerque Public Schools, where she has been a school librarian.

Sarah has also been a teacher’s union member for 42 years.

Currently, Sarah is Chair of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation Committee on Political Education.

Ms. Attleson is the Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers and the New Mexico Committee on Political Education.

Ms. Attelson is currently serving as the Chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico Labor Caucus.

There is no doubt Sarah Attelson is a dedicated and hardworking APS school employee who has the priority of making sure our kids get a quality education

For a related blog article and further analysis and commentary on the APS mail in ballot initiative see:

Vote YES On APS Property Tax Levy And Bonds To Rebuild Deteriorating Schools

Vote YES On APS Property Tax Levy And Bonds To Rebuild Deteriorating Schools

Albuquerque Public School (APS) System is conducting a bonding and property tax levy election for the renovation, refurbishment and construction of new schools to replace old schools.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1243802/aps-will-ask-voters-for-property-tax-increase.html

APS is seeking a 2-mill levy property tax rate increase and a bond initiative.

The money generated is budgeted for 34 specific construction projects.

The election is being conducted by “mail in ballot” overseen by the Bernalillo County Clerk with ballots mailed to all Bernalillo County registered voters.

All ballots must be returned to the Bernalillo County Clerk before Tuesday, February 5, 2019, or they will not be counted.

APS IN A NUTSHELL

Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is New Mexico’s largest school district, serving more than a fourth of the state’s students and nearly 84,000 students.

The ethnicity of the APS 84,000 students is:
65.8% Hispanic
22.9% Caucasian/White
5.5% American Indian
3.2% African American
2.3% Asian American
0.2% are “other”

Of the 84,000 APS students 16.6% are classified as “English Learners”, 17.2% are classified as “Students with Disabilities”, and 5.9% are in gifted programs

There are 29 APS authorized charter schools with 7,100 students attending the charter schools.

APS is among the top 40 largest school districts in the nation and the largest in New Mexico.

APS operates 142 schools consisting of 4 K-8 schools, 88 elementary schools (K through 8th grade), 27 middle schools (6-8 th grade), 21 high schools (9th to 12th grade) and 2 alternative schools.

APS students live in the city of Albuquerque and the towns of Corrales, Los Ranchos and the counties of Bernalillo and Sandoval, and the pueblos of Isleta and Laguna.

APS serves many students in need with nearly two-thirds qualifying for the federal school meals program.

APS employs 14,000 total employees consisting of 12,000 full time employees, 6,063 teachers and librarians and 1,800 teacher aides.

The school district serves 29,000 breakfast per school day and 41,000 lunches per school day.

APS has an approved 2018-2018 approved budget of $1.38 Billion.

THE APS PROPERTY TAX MILL AND BOND QUESTIONS

The 2-mill levy property tax rate increase and a bond initiative, should they be approved by voters, will generate over $900 million over the next 6 years for construction projects.

The passage of two of the measures will entail a property tax increase of 4.7% on homes, real estate and commercial property.

In dollars and cents, a 2-mill levy means someone with a home valued at $100,000 will see an annual increase of $67 in property taxes, a home valued at $150,000 will have an annual tax increase of $100, and for a home valued at $220,000, the median home value in the city, it will be a $147 annual increase in property taxes.

There has not been an APS tax rate increase since 2006, a full 12 years and well before the recession.

The “mail-in ballot” has three ballot questions or initiatives, one on the front of the ballot and two on the back of the ballot.

The FIRST ballot initiative on the front of the ballot is entitled “THE PUBLIC-SCHOOL CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS TAX QUESTION”. This initiative involves money earmarked for maintenance of existing facilities and this question is a continuation of the current tax rate. The current tax rate is at the end of its six-year cycle, and continued funding is needed to maintain APS current facilities. This money protects the public’s investment in public schools.

The SECOND ballot initiative is on the back of the ballot to the left and is entitled “THE PUBLIC-SCHOOL BUILDING TAX QUESTION”. This initiative involves money to be used to create new facilities as well as purchase needed equipment and technology. APS is asking the voter to consider a $1 per $1,000 of assessed value increase to their taxes. This question is a little confusing as it asks permission to raise taxes to $4.83 per $1,000 with people wrongly assuming this is a $4.83 increase, but the current rate is $3.83, so it is only a $1 increase.

The THIRD ballot initiative is also on the back of the ballot and on the right upper side and is entitled “GENERAL OBLIGATION BOND QUESTION”: This initiative asks voters for permission to sell an additional $200 million in General Obligation Bonds. These bonds can be used solely for capital and equipment for the district and it does increase property taxes by $1 per $1,000 for repayment of the debt.

For a sample ballot, go to https://www.bernco.gov/uploads/files/Clerk/APS-Feb-05-2019%20Sample%20Ballot.pdf

For further instructions on the ballot see Postscript below.

WHAT IS BEING SOUGHT

The total increase for all three questions is $2 per $1,000, or 4.7% of a total property tax rate.

The first initiative seeks $190 million for continuing maintenance of the public schools and keeps the tax rate as it is.

The other two initiatives seek $510 million and $200 million for construction and instructional equipment, and would increase the APS mill tax rate.

If voters approve the first initiative, property tax rates will stay the same and APS will continue to receive approximately the same amount it has been receiving for maintenance, repairs, remodels, equipment, furnishings and like projects.

Because APS schools and facilities are deteriorating from use, the other two ballot initiatives would cover the costs of rebuilding.

There is no question that many of the aging schools need replacing.

APS is asking voters for funding for 34 projects costing a total of $900 MILLION that are deemed needed throughout the entire largest school district in New Mexico.

A total of 31 of the 34 projects consist of renovating, repairing and replacing aging schools, including 16 elementary schools, 12 middle schools and 3 high schools.

There are targeted capital dollars to provide funding to finish up major rebuilds and upgrades to 23 school campuses.

The capital monies will also provide start-up monies for 11 additional renovation projects targeting aging campuses in historic neighborhoods, like La Mesa Elementary School.

The remaining 3 projects are $20 million for school security upgrades, one project is $1.8 million for long overdue Information Technology (IT) upgrades, and one project is $1.5 million for infrastructure and American With Disabilities Act renovations.

The $20 million for much needed school security upgrades is in response to APS needing to upgrade safety measures in response to the rash of incidences of gun violence on school grounds across the country, including New Mexico.

The $20 million in security funding will provide for new locks for every classroom, security vestibule entrances, upgraded camera security with a district-wide central monitoring center, and build protective perimeter fencing for school campuses.

The IT upgrading technology is for both students and teachers and is necessary to stay competitive education wise in a fast evolving, high-tech world.

Speaking in favor of passage of all three ballot initiatives, APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy said:

“We are trying to keep those buildings up and provide the best learning environment for our students.”

CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

The APS Public School System receives very little funding from the State of New Mexico for school construction and must fund, build and maintain all of its school facilities.

The construction projects are divided into two major categories:

A) Projects already designed and to be to be constructed and
B) New “Design & Construction Projects” to begin with construction funds from the 2022 School Bond Elections.

A. The following major APS projects are already designed and to be to be constructed with the passage of all the initiatives:

Jackson Middle School: Construction of Next 2 phases (PE and Classrooms and Administration) $9.4 million

Turf Fields (District): District-wide High School, Middle School and Elementary School, $3 million

School Police Command Center (District): Command Center Construction, $2.3 million

Student Ancillary Support (District): IT & District Support Consolidation, $1.8 million

Lincoln (District): Infrastructure and American With Disabilities Act renovations, $1.5 million

Arroyo del Oso Elementary School: Construction of replacement school, $24.53 million

Barcelona Elementary School: Construction of new Gym and Media Center, Admin, Kitchen and Cafeteria, $6.85 million

Career Enrichment Center/Early College Academy: Construction of classrooms and renovations $7.57 million

Jane Kahn K-8: Construction of 2 final phases of replacement school, $25.81 million

Hubert Humphrey Elementary School: Construction of replacement school, $18.76 million

Lavaland Elementary School: Construction of classroom block, $8.53 million

Monte Vista Elementary School: Construction of classroom block, $5.38 million.

Navajo Elementary School: Construction of Kindergarten/Art-music classrooms, $3.94 million

Coyote Willow Family School K-8: Construction of final phase of classrooms, $3.90 million

Sierra Vista Elementary School: Construction of classroom block, $7.96 million

Taylor Middle School: 2 phases of school replacement, classrooms, $13.65 million

Truman Middle School: Classroom & Admin, 2 phases of school replacement. $15.62

Valle Vista Elementary School: Construction of classroom block, $9.54 million

Zia Elementary School: Construction of replacement school, $15.89

ZX DW Bus Depots (District): Construction of student 3 transportation depots, $18 million

M.A. Binford Elementary School: Construction of classroom block/Admin, $7.8 million

McKinley Middle School: Construction of classroom block, 2 phases of school replacement, $3.37 million

Rio Grande High School: Construction of phase 3 of a 5 phased school replacement, $5.74

B. New “Design & Construction Projects” to begin with election passage and with construction funds to come from the 2022 School Bond Elections are:

Washington Middle School: Design & Build for School Replacement, $31.23 million

Harrison Middle School: Design & Build first 2 phases of a 3 phased school replacement, $33.84

Desert Ridge Middle School: Design & Build Classroom addition and site Infrastructure improvements, $19 million

Van Buren Middle School: Design & Build first 2 phases of a 3 phased l school replacement, $33.84 million

Hayes Middle School: Design & Build first 2 phases of a 3 phased school replacement, $32.84 million

Whittier Elementary School : Design & Build New Classroom Block and Admin replacement, $12.60 million

La Mesa Elementary School: Design & Build of Renovations & Classroom Block Replacement, $16.36 million

Eldorado Hight School: Design & Build first 2 phases of a 5 phased school replacement, $30.10 million

Hawthorne Elementary School: Design & Building Renovations & Classroom Block Replacement, $12.60 million

Grant Middle School: Design & Build new classroom, first 2 phases of 3 phased school replacement, $26.26 million

Corrales Elementary School: Design & Build & Renovate/refurbish, $3.5 million

http://www.aps.edu/community/mail-in-election/planned-and-ongoing-construction-projects.

APS NOT JUST ALBUQUERQUE

When it comes to APS students, they include the towns of Corrales, Los Ranchos, the counties of Bernalillo and Sandoval, and the pueblos of Isleta and Laguna.

Two-thirds of the 84,000 APS students are Hispanic and 16.6 percent are English Learners.

APS also serves many students in need with nearly two-thirds qualifying for the federal school meals program.

For all too many years, New Mexico’s and the APS school system have consistently rank at the bottom or near bottom of national statistics and rankings with respect to graduation rates and reading, writing and math proficiency.

STATE DISTRICT COURT RULING IMPACT ON APS

Education is the number one priority for Governor Lujan Grisham and the 2019 New Mexico legislature that started January 15, 2019 because of a District Court ruling last year that New Mexico was failing to meet its constitutional requirement to provide sufficient schooling to all students.

The District Court ruling does have a direct impacto APS.

On July 20, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education.

The court ruled many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system.

As a matter of law, Judge Singleton wrote the “lack of funds is not a defense to providing constitutional rights.”

In her blistering written opinion, Judge Singleton wrote:

“[The evidence presented at trial] proves that the vast majority of New Mexico’s at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career. … Indeed, overall New Mexico children rank at the very bottom in the country for educational achievement. … The at-risk students are still not attaining proficiency at the rate of non-at-risk students … and the programs being lauded by [the Public Education Department] are not changing this picture.”

According to the judge’s ruling, in New Mexico, 71.6% of the state’s public-school students come from low-income families, and 14.4% are English-language learners.

Judge Singleton addressing proficiency rates for Native American students said that in the past 3 years, those students’ reading proficiency was at 17.6% and their math proficiency was at 10.4%.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1200069/questions-surround-ruling-on-nm-education-funding.html

The District Court found that New Mexico does not have enough teachers and that New Mexico teachers are among the lowest paid in the country.

Governor Lujan Grisham has already announced her administration will not appeal the District Court ruling.

STATE FUNDING THAT WILL AFFECT APS AND TEACHERS

Newly elected Governor Michelle Lujan has submitted a proposed total budget for New Mexico of $7.1 billion for consideration by the 2019 New Mexico legislature.

The $7.1 billion budget increases state spending by $806 million.

The Governor’s budget calls for $3.2 billion to be spent on Public Schools, a 18% increase, and $830.2 million, a 3.3% increase on higher education.

Increasing teacher salaries, hiring more teachers and addressing the needs of our kids are at the top of Governor Lujan Grisham’s agenda as well as the New Mexico legislatures in the 2019 legislative session with $500 million in new monies proposed for education.

The New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) for its part released its own budget proposal plan that would increase year-over-year state spending by $670.8 million, or by 10.6%, as opposed to the Governor’s $806 million, or 12.7% increase or a 2.1% difference between the plans.

The LFC’s budget would earmark more than three-fifths of the additional spending toward public schools statewide.

More than 50% of the proposed $806 million Lujan-Grisham budget increase will go to the public education system.

Lujan Grisham’s budget plan calls for a sharp and dramatic increase in funding for pre-kindergarten programs.

$60 million in new appropriations is being proposed for pre-kindergarten programs serving 3- and 4-year-old children statewide.

State teachers and principals will get a 6% salary increase next year under the budget.

Lujan-Grisham under her budget proposes to increase New Mexico starting teacher pay from $36,000 to $41,000 per year.

Higher pay levels are also being proposed for more experienced educators.

Teacher minimum salary levels for the three-tier licensure program will be raised to $41,000, $50,000, and $60,000 for Tiers I, II, and III, respectively.

The proposed budget raises the minimum salaries for principals to $60,000.

It is proposed that the state’s funding formula for public schools be adjusted so more money would flow to districts with large populations of Native American, disabled and low-income students, along with English-language learners.

For blog articles on the Governor’s proposed budget and the LFC’s proposed budget see:

http://www.petedinelli.com/…/gov-michelle-lujan…/

http://www.petedinelli.com/2019/01/15/governor-mlgs-budget-plan-vs-lfc-budget-plan/

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Critics of the APS mill levy, including the Albuquerque Journal and the conservative anti-tax Rio Grande Foundation, argue that the property tax levy has not been fully justified and will be just another tax added onto all the other taxes that no one can afford.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1267731/request-for-school-maintenance-money-makes-sense-but-tax-hikes-in-2-other-questions-too-costly-for-many.html

Critics also say that APS needs to find construction money elsewhere and go so far as to suggest APS sell land or assets that they own in the Albuquerque area.

https://www.abqreport.com/single-post/2019/01/16/Why-You-Should-Vote-Against-the-APS-Tax-Increase

Selling school property owned outright by APS is shortsighted for a one-time gain given the anticipated growth of the city and infill demands of the city for school district needs.

How many APS schools need to be condemned for code violations or crumble before people realize something needs to be done now?

The Albuquerque Journal, the anti-tax Rio Grande Foundation, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Albuquerque Economic Forum have never seen a property tax that they have not opposed.

The Journal, the Rio Grande Foundation, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Albuquerque Economic Forum go so far as to oppose the state using the state permanent fund to finance education programs.

All too often, many who are retired and living on fixed incomes resist wanting to pay any and all amount of taxes for public school education because their kids are fully grown and they feel they have already done their part over the years.

Every generation must be fully committed to future generation’s education.

What is involved with the APS ballot initiative is a property tax, and not a regressive gross receipts tax that everyone pays and that has a greater impact on low income earners.

Real property owners are called upon to fund education needs because they far more likely to be able to afford paying the tax.

One of the biggest criticisms against the ballot initiative is that APS has mismanaged their operating budget, it is top heavy with managers, high salaries and there is a significant waste of resources.

All the projects that will be funded are all capital improvement projects meaning that they are not a part of the APS operating budget which is funded by the state’s funding formula per child.

The 34 projects are investments in tangible assets, brick and mortar projects, not management and personnel.

Because of the extent of the number of schools that have depreciated and deteriorated and exceeded their useful “shelf life”, the APS school system and the citizens of Albuquerque are now confronted with a financial dilemma, refurbish or tear down and rebuild many of our public schools.

As is the case with any building, private and publicly owned, APS schools and facilities age and eventually have to be torn down and rebuilt, as was the case with Del Norte High School in the last few years.

All too often, remodeling and renovations in the long run are far costlier to bring a building up to code and it is more practical and economically responsible to tear down and rebuild.

A number of the schools listed, especially the elementary schools, are so old they are falling apart for lack of maintenance, upkeep and age.

APS has been generating as much as 70% of the commercial construction in the city over the past decade.

There is little doubt that the passage of all three questions would be a major infusion to the city’s economy, local businesses and to the construction industry, and the many jobs these projects will support.

Construction costs have skyrocketed and will in all likely continue to rise as years pass.

Repeatedly from the business community you hear the argument that economic development efforts and attracting new business to Albuquerque requires a successful education system.

Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham’s commitment and the New Mexico Legislature’s commitment to finally fund our education system to address our education problems is a big part of the equation to improving our education system in the state and in Albuquerque.

The voters of Albuquerque need to complete the equation and vote to refurbish and rebuild our aging schools by voting FOR all three ballot questions.

New Mexico’s kids and getting an education in a safe and secure environment is at stake.

POSTSCRIPT ON MAIL IN BALLOT

All registered Bernalillo County voters are being mailed ballots by the Bernalillo County Clerk that must be returned before February 5, 2019.

In the mailing, voters are sent two envelopes.

One envelop is the “Official Inner Envelope” that you place your ballot in after you fill in your vote.

You must use black ink only to fill in the vote area on the ballot

The other envelop you put the ballot envelope into.

YOU MUST PRINT YOUR NAME AND YEAR OF BIRTH ON THE “RETURN ENVELOPE” YOU MAIL BACK THE “OFFICIAL INNER ENVELOP” THAT CONTAINS YOUR BALLOT.

YOU MUST SIGN THE OATH THAT YOUR A REGISTERED VOTER ON THE RETURN ENVELOP.

IF YOU DO NOT SIGN THE OATH, YOUR VOTE WILL NOT BE COUNTED.

There have been past elections where literally thousands of mail in ballots not signed have been thrown in the trash and not counted. You must mail your ballot in before February 5, 2019.

For a sample ballot, go to https://www.bernco.gov/uploads/files/Clerk/APS-Feb-05-2019%20Sample%20Ballot.pdf

ABQ: “The City Mayhem” Or “Mayhem City”

Since the beginning of the New Year and during the first 16 days of January, 2019 there were 6 persons killed including 3 that involved domestic violence cases.

On January 16, 2019, it was reported that an 11-day old infant was found dead at a detox center, a woman died from domestic violence on the city’s west side and two men were killed, one shot and killed in broad daylight near Old Town.

The January 17, 2019 front page Albuquerque Journal headline said it all:

“Albuquerque police deal with a day of mayhem”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1269426/albuquerque-police-deal-with-a-day-of-mayhem.html

Mayor Tim Keller has implemented a public relations and marketing campaign to rebrand the city image with his “One ABQ” initiatives with a new logo and nickname.

Keller has come up with a strained logo that rearranges the letters in the city’s name to reflect the slang name “BURQUE” in bright red letters with t-shirts and created a web page with slick videos promoting the city.

If things continue the way they are with the murders and violence, Keller just may want to rebrand Albuquerque “Mayhem City” or “The City Mahem” a knock off of Santa Fe’s “The City Different”.

APPEARANCE POLITICS

In politics, appearance all too often are everything, as is often what is not said nor done.

“Appearance politics” is something I suspect Mayor Keller is acutely aware of given that he is in public relations mode non-stop.

Mayor Keller also had a very successful State of the City Address making an inspirational speech and hosting an event that was open to all city residents and not just the business community like was his predecessor’s practice.

Public relations is a very necessary and critical part of the job of being Mayor and Keller cannot be faulted for that point.

CITY’S VIOLENT CRIME RATES

Review of the city’s crime statistics for the entire year of 2018 show decreases in the property crimes of auto burglary (-29%), auto theft (-31%), commercial burglary (-17 percent) and residential burglary (-18%) and robbery fell by 36%.

Although property crimes have dropped, violent crime is still at unacceptable levels for a city the size of Albuquerque.

In 2017, the city broke the all-time homicide rate of 70 with 72 murders and in 2018 there were 65 murders

In March of 2018, 5 homicides were reported in six days.

In December, 2018, 2 police officer deadly force shootings occurred in less than 24 hours.

In 2018, nonfatal shootings went up 4% from 470 to 491 shootings.

There were 6 more murders in the first quarter of 2018 compared with 2017 which was a 50% increase.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It is very good news that Albuquerque’s property crime rates for the first time in a number of years appear to be declining, but for how long and to what extent only time will tell.

Keller can take comfort and a degree of credit for bringing down property crimes for the first time in 8 years and he can breathe a little easier, but not for long.

The bad news is that the city’s murder rates are still way too high and the city is way too violent.

The city still has the image of being a very violent city.

There is a big difference between governing and running for office.

When Tim Keller was running, he proclaimed that APD needed serious reform and promised to return to community based policing.

To his credit, Mayor Tim Keller is planning to spend $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 878 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers by implementing a hiring and recruitment program to offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing.

APD has had results with their recruitment program of incentives, pay raises and bonuses with the hiring of new officers and lateral hires.

By July, 2019 APD is projected to have approximately 980 sworn police, but it will still be shorthanded to deal with the crime levels.

Keller’s plan to turn APD around is going to take more time than he may have to convince people that he has solved Albuquerque’s high crime rates, especially when there is blood in the streets and our children continue to be murdered by their own parents.

APD is now Mayor Keller’s department and APD’s homicide division has brought shame upon the department in botching case after case and their clearance rate is atrocious at less than 50% when at one time it was at least 85%.

Adding gasoline to the fire, even after a homicide is committed and defendants are arrested, cases are being dismissed because of shoddy and incomplete investigations, a failure to process scientific evidence such as DNA and with people arrested that did not even commit the crime they are charged with as was the case involving the murder of 9 year old Victoria Martens.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/07/02/abq-report-apd-homicide-units-legacy-of-shame/

No amount of public relations, inspiring speeches, hand shaking and feel good FACEBOOK videos by Mayor Keller are going to bring down our violent crime rates to where they were 8 years ago.

Voters tend to be very fickle and demand results.

Mayor Tim Keller has successfully completed his first full year in office, an no matter how successful he has been, people feel unsafe and that the city is still way too violent.

With the daily reports of homicides in the news, people are beginning to believe the change they voted for is not materializing and things are getting worse with APD and crime.

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/08/08/abq-report-new-apd-worse-than-old-apd/

If after two full years in office Mayor Keller is still dealing with high murder rates, drug-dealing and horrid child abuse cases it won’t be for a lack of police officers nor money spent, it will be for a lack of leadership.

Those are harsh words, but it is reality politics and the nature of city elections.

Mayor Keller’s success with dealing with our violent crime rates and the management of APD with respect to the Department of Justice reforms will have a direct impact on Mayor Keller’s chances of being reelected.

There is no amount of public relations that will prevent Mayor Tim Keller from being defined by our serious violent crime rates and he and APD need to act far more aggressively than they have to address the problem.

If our murder and violent crime rates are not brought under control by Mayor Tim Keller, do not be surprised if one of Keller’s opponents in 2 years does a political ad in a morgue standing next to a child’s coffin reminiscent of former Mayor Berry standing next to his stolen and burned out recovered truck and saying that Keller has failed as Mayor when it comes to public safety.

Extent Of Trump’s Treason And Obstruction Of Justice Coming Into Focus

There have now been two major stories that clearly call into question if President Donald Trump is a traitor to his own country or an operative or stooge for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NEW YORK TIMES REPORT

On May 9, 2017, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

Initially Trump said the firing was based on the recommendation of top Justice Department officials and because of his botched handling of the 2016 email investigation involving Hillary Clinton.

On May 10, 2017, the very day after President Trump fired James Comey, Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office that he had fired F.B.I. director James B. Comey and said:

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. … I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. … I’m not under investigation.”

The Oval Office disclosure to the Russian Ambassador reinforces the notion that the president dismissed Comey primarily because of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/us/politics/trump-russia-comey.html

However, Trump in a TV interviews, said he made the decision to fire Comey prior to consulting the Justice Department, because the FBI chief was a “showboat” and was mishandling the department.

On May 11, 2017, during and interview with NBC News anchor Lester Holt, Trump acknowledged that the Russia investigation was one of the things he considered in firing FBI Director James Comey when he said “In fact, when I decided to just do it [fire James Comey], I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”

Trump’s repeated references to the Russia investigation in interviews, tweets and the letter he sent Comey informing him that he’d been fired could be interpreted as an effort to “obstruct or impede” the Russian investigation.

On January 11, 2019, the New York Times reported that within the days after President Trump fired F.B.I. director James B. Comey, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/us/politics/fbi-trump-russia-inquiry.html?fbclid=IwAR1BUlB-Z-KcCsq04hRewaaRrbI8nq_cGd4XeH2-mYc_Ifi3y9hYn49Yisk

According to the New York Times bombshell report, counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether Trump’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security.

Agents sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

What prompted the counterintelligence inquiry were two instances, one before and one after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, in which Trump tied the Comey dismissal to stop the Russia investigation.

The investigation centered on if Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation which would be both a possible crime of “obstruction of justice” and a national security concern for Russian interference in the 2016 election.

WASHINGTON POST REPORT

On January 13, 2019 The Washington Post reported that there are no detailed records of 5 personal meetings President Trump has had with Russian President Vladimir Putin but what they have said and agreed to is a mystery.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/12/politics/trump-putin-meetings-no-records/index.html

The Washington Post reported that Trump went to “extraordinary lengths” to keep the specifics of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin totally under wraps and not to be disclosed to anyone, not even United States Government officials.

Current and former US officials told the Washington Post that Trump’s efforts include confiscating the notes from his interpreter and not allowing the interpreters to discuss the details of the meetings with other officials in his administration.

After the two hour and behind closed door meeting between Trump and Putin on July 16, 2018, in Helsinki, the Kremlin later reported that the leaders reached important agreements, but American government officials were left in the dark on what Trump had agreed to behind closed doors.

American intelligence agencies were left to glean details about the meeting from surveillance of Russians who talked about it afterward.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/15/us/politics/trump-putin-meetings.html

Trump’s behavior in concealing whatever he said and whatever he promises to Vladimir Putin violates past presidential standards and established diplomatic protocols.

TRUMP’S OVERT SOLICITATIONS OF RUSSIAN INFLUENCE

What is reported by the New York Times and the Washington Post is a confirmation of what has been going on with Trump before and after he was elected President.

On July 27, 2016, while running for office, Donald Trump encouraged Russian hackers to find emails that had been deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private server that she used while serving as secretary of state when he said:

“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing … “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Trump said at a press conference in Florida.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-russia-clinton-hack_us_5b48d9d0e4b0e7c958faf810

On July 27, 2016, Vladimir Putin and Russia were listening and heeded Trump’s call for help to get him elected President.

According to the federal indictment of the 12 Russian intelligence officers for their involvement in hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election, the Russian hacking occurred on July 27, 2016 hours after Trump gave his press conference and encouraged Russian hackers to find Clinton’s emails.

The indictment states that on July 27, 2016, the same day as Trump’s press conference, Russian hackers, “for the first time,” attempted to break into email accounts, including those used by Clinton’s personal office.

Notably, the indictment is very specific that the hack happened in the evening, meaning the Russian officials could have done it after Trump’s press conference.

Literally hundreds of times since the election, Trump has tweeted and said during events and interviews that there was “no collusion” with Russia.

Trump has called the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt.”

Trump then said “There was no collusion, but if there was, it was not a crime.”

After his return trip from Helsinki meeting with President Vladimir Putin Trump said “I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t. … The sentence should have been ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia [who hacked into Democratic Party computers]. … I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself”.

Regarding his relationship with Putin and Russia, Trump has said this:

“Then Putin said, ‘Donald Trump is a genius, he’s going to be the next great leader of the United States.’ No, no, think of it. They wanted me to disavow what he said. How dare you call me a genius. How dare you call me a genius, Vladimir. Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia? Wouldn’t that be good?”

“The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me!”

“But I have nothing to do with Russia, nothing to do, I never met Putin, I have nothing to do with Russia whatsoever.”

“I never met Putin. … I don’t know who Putin is. He said one nice thing about me. He said I’m a genius. I said thank you very much to the newspaper and that was the end of it. I never met Putin.”

“I would treat Vladimir Putin firmly, but there’s nothing I can think of that I’d rather do than have Russia friendly, as opposed to the way they are right now, so that we can go and knock out ISIS with other people.”

https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/03/politics/trump-putin-russia-timeline/

RUSSIAN MONEY MAKES TRUMP’S “WORLD GO ROUND”

Donald Trump has maintained that neither he nor his businesses have any ties to Russia whatsoever and he has not done business in Russia.

On January 11, 2017, Donald Trump tweeted:

“Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

During a February 2O17, news conference, President Trump said:

“I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia … I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”

On May 8, 2017, Vanity Fair reported that the Trump Organization received substantial financing from Russia when the business was struggling in the mid-1990s and again during the Great Recession, since major U.S. banks had refuse to make any loans.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/05/eric-trump-russia-investment-golf-course

On March 17, 2017, Reuters reported that a group of 63 Russia billionaires have invested nearly $100 million in several Trump properties in Florida.

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-trump-property/

Donald Trump Jr. famously said in 2008 that:

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

During the week of May 21, 2017, the top story was President Trump’s son in law and White House Presidential adviser and employee Jared Kushner trying to set up “back channel” communications and use Russian classified government communications systems to avoid United States government detection and monitoring.

Jared Kushner, Paul Manford and Donald Trump, Jr. were at the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

On September 12, 2018, BuzzFeed News Reported that federal investigators have looked into a pair of suspicious money transfers from some of the planners and participants in a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/406252-investigators-looking-at-suspicious-money-transfers-after-trump

They involve money from Russia and Switzerland being moved to places such as the British Virgin Islands, Bangkok and New Jersey, according to the BuzzFeed report.

The secret documents it evaluated show a complex web of financial transactions may play a role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference.

Four federal law enforcement officers told the news outlet that investigators were specifically looking into two bursts of transactions that bank examiners found suspicious.

One of the bursts occurred 11 days after the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, while the other happened right after President Trump’s election.

Secret documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News reveal a previously undisclosed aspect of the meeting: a complex web of financial transactions among some of the planners and participants who moved money from Russia and Switzerland to the British Virgin Islands, Bangkok, and a small office park in New Jersey.

The documents show Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer close to both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, at the center of this vast network and how he used accounts overseas to filter money to himself, his son, and at least two people who attended the Trump Tower meeting.

The financial records offer new insight into the world inhabited by many of Trump’s associates, who use shell companies and secret bank accounts to quickly and quietly move money across the globe.

LETTER OF INTENT TO DO BUSINESS IN RUSSIA

On December 19, 2018 CNN reported that in 2016, as the Trump Organization was in negotiations to build Trump Tower Moscow, Donald Trump signed a “letter of intent” to move forward with the project.

CNN obtained a copy of the letter and news anchor Chris Cuomo showed it on air, along with video of Trump repeatedly denying that he had anything to do with Russia while he was running for president.

The letter of intent to build the Moscow Trump Tower was also signed by the head of the Russian firm that Trump’s company was working with, corroborates the argument Trump was lying when he said he did not do business with Russian interests.

http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/trump-signed-a-letter-of-intent-to-build-trump-tower-moscow.html

RUSSIAN TIES OF INTERFERENCE

Three senior intelligence officials have said the intelligence community has found clear evidence that Russia did indeed compromise or interfere with voter registries in the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin, and there are probably more.

(February 28, 2018 NBC News report: “U.S. intel: Russia compromised seven states prior to 2016 election”.)

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/elections/u-s-intel-russia-compromised-seven-states-prior-2016-election-n850296

The intelligence community has found that Russia tried to influence our election in favor of Trump by circulating false and misleading information on the internet, sponsoring organization meetings and providing funding for Trump supporter rallies.

One report is money was given by Russian operatives to fund a float for a mock-up of a jail with a Clinton look alike dress in a black and white striped jumpsuit.

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged 33 people and convicted Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen of felony crimes of varying degrees and all three have cooperated with the investigation.

Some of the President’s closest advisors have been indicted, tried and convicted or plead guilty to charges and awaiting sentencing including:

Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to report foreign bank accounts with Manafort pleading guilty in another criminal case.

Michael Cohen, President’ Trump’s long time private attorney and “fixer” and who has plead guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations in the criminal investigation in New York and implicated Trump in committing campaign finance felonies.

Rick Gates, one of Manafort’s business partners who plead guilty to one charge of lying to investigators and one charge of conspiracy in exchange for becoming a cooperating witness in the Mueller probe. He testified against Manafort as the prosecution’s star witness in its case in Virginia.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser who plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations last December with Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time, Sergey Kislyak. In delaying Michael Flynn’s sentencing, Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn “Arguably, this undermines everything this [US] flag over here stands for! Arguably, you sold your country out!”

George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser who plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Papadopoulos made at least six attempts to set up a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian representatives throughout the course of the 2016 presidential campaign.

California businessman Richard Pinedo who plead guilty to one count of identity fraud. The plea deal’s release came immediately after Mueller’s office announced charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of interfering in the 2016 US election by mounting an elaborate and multi-faceted social media influence operation meant to sow political discord during and after the race.

Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer tied to Manafort and Gates plead guilty to one count of making false statements to federal investigators. Van der Zwaan represents the interests of numerous Russian oligarchs. He is also the son-in-law of German Khan, the Ukrainian-Russian billionaire who controls Russia’s Alfa Bank.

Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies indicted for allegedly involved in meddling in the US political system.

Twelve Russian intelligence officers indicted for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 US presidential election. The accusations against them include conspiring to interfere with the election by hacking computers, stealing documents, and releasing those documents with intent to interfere.

https://www.businessinsider.com/who-has-been-charged-in-russia-investigation-mueller-trump-2017-12#12-russian-intelligence-officers-8

TREASON AND OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE

Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution provides that “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The power and authority to bring Articles of Impeachment rests solely with the United States House of Representatives and a trial is then conducted by the United State Senate for removal from office.

A “high crimes and misdemeanor” can be whatever the House of Representatives say it is in Articles of Impeachment.

Treason against the United States is defined under federal law as when “a person, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United State” (18 U.S. Code § 2381 – Treason)

Under federal law, “obstruction of justice” is defined as an act that “corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.” (18 U.S.C. § 1503)

Someone obstructs justice when that person has a specific intent to obstruct or interfere with a judicial proceeding, such as the firing of an FBI Director during an ongoing FBI investigation which is what the Russian probe investigation is all about.

For a person to be convicted of obstructing justice, that person must not only have the specific intent to obstruct the proceeding, but that person must know:

(1) that a proceeding was actually pending at the time; and

(2) there must be a connection between the endeavor to obstruct justice and the proceeding, and the person must have knowledge of this connection.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Government officials and others familiar with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference have told the media that he is nearing the conclusion of his investigation and is expected to submit a confidential report to the attorney general as early as mid-February, 2019.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/mueller-may-submit-report-attorney-general-soon-mid-february-say-n949961

It is highly likely the information contained in The New York Times and the Washington Post articles is very “old news” to Robert Mueller.

It is more likely than not that the Russian probe has uncovered evidence of a President “giving aid and comfort” to Russia to influence his election to become President and to hide or stop the Russia investigation to disrupt the 2016 election by firing FBI James Comey or both.

Trump has spent a lifetime being loyal to only two things: himself and his money.

Given the millions and millions of dollars involved with Russian financing of Trump enterprises, Trump’s love of money probably outweighs his love for his country if he really ever had love for the country in the first place.

No one, except Donald Trump, knows what promises and commitments he has made to Russian President Vladimir Putin behind closed doors, including those promises and commitments made against the best interests of his county and the people of the United States.

What appears to be unfolding is the inevitable impeachment of a sitting President of the United States for treason against his own country for the first time in its history, and if not, for obstruction of justice.

Governor MLG’s Budget Plan Vs LFC Budget Plan

On January 11, 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham submitted her very first budget for consideration by the New Mexico Legislature which starts on January 15, 2019.

The Governor’s proposed total budget for New Mexico is $7.1 billion.

The $7.1 billion budget increases state spending by $806 million.

The $806 million increase is a 12.7% increase over current levels.

More than 50% of the Governor’s proposed $806 million budget increase will go to the public education system.

Lujan Grisham’s budget plan calls for a more than a $500 million increase in public school spending.

The Lujan-Grisham 2019-2020 proposed budget includes increasing spending levels in the following areas:

Public schools: $3.2 billion, a 18% increase.
Higher education: $830.2 million, a 3.3% increase.
Medicaid: $1.01 billion a 6.7% increase.
Courts, district attorneys and public defenders: $306.3 million, a 3.5% increase.
Prisons: $321.4 million a 5.2 percent increase.

A detailed analysis of the Governor’s proposed budget can be viewed here:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2019/01/14/gov-michelle-lujan-grishams-budget-a-dawn-of-a-new-day/

NEW MEXICO LEGISLATIVE FINANCE COMMITTEE BUDGET

On January 14, 2019, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) released its budget plan.

The budget plan would increase year-over-year state spending by $670.8 million, or by 10.6%, as opposed to the Governor’s $806 million, or 12.7% increase or a 2.1% difference between the plans.

The LFC’s budget would earmark more than three-fifths of the additional spending toward public schools statewide.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO PROPOSED BUDGETS

There are a number of major differences with the Legislative Finance Committee budget plan and the budget plan released by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The legislative budget does not appropriate an estimated $300 million to pay off a backlog in state film subsidies, an action that Lujan Grisham has proposed, and does not with eliminate an annual cap on film subsidy spending as the Governor has proposed.

In addition, the Democratic Governor Lujan Grisham has proposed earmarking $75 million for a state “closing fund” that’s intended to spur economic development by luring out-of-state companies to New Mexico and the Legislative Finance Committee budget plan only includes $4 million for the program.

State prekindergarten programs would get about $25 million more under Lujan Grisham’s plan than under the LFC proposal.

Lujan-Grisham under her budget proposes to increase New Mexico starting teacher pay from $36,000 to $41,000 per year, while the LFC budget proposes to starting teacher pay at $40,000.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1268316/nm-legislative-panel-rolls-out-7-billion-spending-package.html

SIMILARITIES OF THE PROPOSED BUDGETS

Both the Governor’s and the LFC budgets call for an increase in the public-school funding formula for at-risk students, including Native Americans, English-language learners and those with disabilities.

Salaries for teachers and state workers would go up under both plans.

Teachers would get a 5.5 percent raise under the LFC plan and a 6 percent hike under the governor’s plan.

Taxpayer-funded retirement contributions for teachers and state workers would increase under both plans.

Neither of the budget plans call for any additional lump sum payment into either the Educational Retirement Board or the Public Employees Retirement Association.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Now the hard part begins to get a budget compromise between the Governor’s proposed budget and the LFC’s the proposed budget passed by the New Mexico legislature convening on January 15, 2019.

Democrat State Senator John Arthur Smith, the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said much of Governor Lujan Grisham’s budget recommendation are in line with a separate Legislative Finance Committee plan.

However, Senator Smith still voiced concern about the possibility of a state revenue slowdown and the fiscal impact of the proposed $12 minimum wage for all state employees and public-school workers that the Governor wants by saying:

“I’m concerned their cost estimates on that are a little weak.”

Another big difference between now and the last 8 years is that New Mexico has a dramatic increase in revenues from the oil and gas industry giving the state upwards of $2 Billion in additional revenues.

Commenting on the increase revenues, Governor Lujan Grisham had this to say:

“For the first time in many years, our revenue projections are showing significant growth and an unprecedented amount of new money is available to invest back in our state.

Notwithstanding the tremendous spike in new monies available, the Lujan-Grisham proposed budget calls for $1.8 billion, or 25% of state spending, to be set aside in cash reserves in case the projected revenues from oil and gas production for the coming fiscal year don’t materialize.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham will be giving her first State of the State address on January 15, 2019, the opening day of the legislature, and no doubt will have an opportunity to set the tone for the 60-day session.

One thing is for certain is that words like “cooperation, communication, and compromise” will be articulated by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham during her legislative session opening remarks as opposed to the past 8 years of confrontation and conflict and “my way or the highway” negativity of former Governor Susana Martinez.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Budget A Dawn Of A New Day

Many years ago, former Illinois United States Senator Everett Dirksen was famously quoted as saying:

“A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money”.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has submitted her very first budget for consideration by the New Mexico Legislature which starts on January 15, 2019 and it is “real money” by anyone’s standards.

The budget signals a bright new day for New Mexico and an end to the last 8 years of overcast.

The proposed total budget for New Mexico is $7.1 billion.

The $7.1 billion budget increases state spending by $806 million.

You can review the entire 115 page “EXECUTIVE BUDGET RECOMMENDATION Fiscal Year 2020 July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020” at the below link:

http://www.nmdfa.state.nm.us/uploads/files/SBD/FY%2020/Executive%20Budget%20Recommendation%20FY2020%20FINAL.pdf

The $806 million increase is a 12.7% increase over current levels.

The additional $806 million in new spending comes from the dramatic increase in oil and gas revenues in southern New Mexico and the Permian basin drilling.

Under Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s proposed budget state spending will hit an all-time high.

The Lujan-Grisham 2019-2020 proposed budget includes increasing spending levels in the following areas:

Public schools: $3.2 billion, a 18% increase.
Higher education: $830.2 million, a 3.3% increase.
Medicaid: $1.01 billion a 6.7% increase.
Courts, district attorneys and public defenders: $306.3 million, a 3.5% increase.
Prisons: $321.4 million a 5.2 percent increase.

The overall spending increases included in Lujan Grisham’s budget are larger than the cumulative state spending growth during the 8 years that former Governor Susana Martinez was in office.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1266876/lujan-grisham-unveils-7-1-billion-spending-plan.html

The biggest reason for the sharp contrast between the Republican Governor Martinez budgets and the Democrat Governor Lujan-Grisham budget is that New Mexico had two economic downturns during Martinez’s tenure that mandated spending cuts, reduced take-home pay for state employees and budget-balancing maneuvers.

New Mexico’s revenue flow has increased because of the dramatic spike in oil and gas production.

Notwithstanding the tremendous spike in new monies available, the Lujan-Grisham proposed budget calls for $1.8 billion, or 25% of state spending, to be set aside in cash reserves in case the projected revenues from oil and gas production for the coming fiscal year don’t materialize.

DISTRICT COURT RULING

Education is the number one priority for Governor Lujan Grisham and the legislature that starts January 15, 2019 because of a District Court ruling that New Mexico was failing to meet its constitutional requirement to provide sufficient schooling to all students.

On July 20, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education.

The court ruled many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system.

As a matter of law, Judge Singleton wrote the “lack of funds is not a defense to providing constitutional rights.”

In her blistering written opinion, Judge Singleton wrote:

“[The evidence presented at trial] proves that the vast majority of New Mexico’s at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career. … Indeed, overall New Mexico children rank at the very bottom in the country for educational achievement. … The at-risk students are still not attaining proficiency at the rate of non-at-risk students … and the programs being lauded by [the Public Education Department] are not changing this picture.”

According to the judge’s ruling, in New Mexico, 71.6% of the state’s public-school students come from low-income families, and 14.4% are English-language learners.

Judge Singleton addressing proficiency rates for Native American students said that in the past 3 years, those students’ reading proficiency was at 17.6% and their math proficiency was at 10.4%.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1200069/questions-surround-ruling-on-nm-education-funding.html

The Court found that New Mexico does not have enough teachers and that New Mexico teachers are among the lowest paid in the country.

Governor Lujan Grisham has already announced her administration will not appeal the District Court ruling.

CHILDREN’S PUBLIC EDUCATION MADE A PRIORITY IN RESPONSE TO DISTRICT COURT RULING

True to her campaign promises, there is a dramatic increase in spending for New Mexico’s public-school system and children.

More than 50% of the proposed $806 million budget increase will go to the public education system.

Lujan Grisham’s budget plan calls for a more than a $500 million increase in public school spending.

The budget contains a sharp and dramatic increase in funding for pre-kindergarten programs.

$60 million in new appropriations is being proposed for pre-kindergarten programs serving 3 and 4 year-old children statewide.

The goal is to increase pre-kindergarten enrollment from 42% to 80% over the next five years.

The submitted budget includes funding in the amount of $119.9 million for the “K-5 Plus formula factor” which will allow for and require all eligible schools to add 25 days to the school year.

An additional amount of $18.7 million is included to fund the “Extended Learning Time Formula” factor in order to add 3 school days to all schools for a total of 183 days.

The new budget for education needs provides for:

$6 million in funding to support competency-based science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) standards in classrooms across New Mexico $5 million for career technical and vocational education and apprenticeships programs build-up; $1 million for after school and summer enrichment programs
$6 million for an attendance success initiative
$1.5 million for college preparation, career readiness, and dropout prevention
$2 million for a community school rollout
$2 million in funding is proposed for the Higher Education Department to develop centers of excellence in the areas of bioscience, cybersecurity, agriculture and sustainable and renewable energy.
$25 million in funding to reinstate the College Affordability Act

State teachers and principals will get a 6% salary increase next year under the budget.

Lujan-Grisham under her budget proposes to increase New Mexico starting teacher pay from $36,000 to $41,000 per year.

Higher pay levels are also being proposed for more experienced educators.

Teacher minimum salary levels for the three-tier licensure program will be raised to $41,000, $50,000, and $60,000 for Tiers I, II, and III, respectively.

The proposed budget raises the minimum salaries for principals to $60,000.

Additionally, to help the lowest-paid educational personnel, the proposed budget includes funding for the implementation of a $12 per hour minimum wage

The state’s funding formula for public schools will also be adjusted so more money would flow to districts with large populations of Native American, disabled and low-income students, along with English-language learners.

PROTECTING CHILDREN

Albuquerque and New Mexico for the last 4 years have been shocked and haunted with the news of the tragic and brutal killing of children by their own parents.

Media reports all too often have included reports where those children had fallen through the cracks of law enforcement and the New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department.

Lujan Grisham’s recommendation calls for an additional $36.5 million for the chronically understaffed Children, Youth and Families Department.

Under the budget, 102 new social workers are to be hired by the agency’s child’s Protective Services Division.

HEALTH CARE SERVICES

The Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s proposed budget includes significant investments in health services for New Mexicans, with the largest components being Medicaid enrollment growth, Developmental Disabilities Waiver, and funds to address the behavioral healthcare system.

The Governors proposed budget includes a total increase of $25.7 million for the New Mexico Department of Health.

The $25.7 million increase includes increased funding of $6.3 million for early intervention services in the Family Infant Toddler Program.

$7 million in funding is earmarked to get more families on the Developmental Disabilities Waiver and enrolled in the program.

The $25.7 million increase also includes $1.5 million for the supportive services waiver and $500,000 for receivership funding to assist struggling health care providers and increases funding for staff to ensure health facilities are properly surveyed.

$27 million is proposed for Centennial Care enrollment and utilization growth.

The proposed budget includes $8.1 million to cover the projected base enrollment shortfall in FY 2019.

The enrollment growth is expected to be an additional 28,000 New Mexicans eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled.

One of the cruelest things that Governor Martinez did as Governor was ordering an “audit” of mental health services alleging fraud by nonprofits in New Mexico which devastated New Mexico’s behavioral health system.

In early 2016, at least 13 of the 15 nonprofits that were shut down were exonerated of fraud by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas the damage had been done to the nonprofits and many just went out of business.

Three of the five Arizona providers brought in by Governor Susana Martinez’s administration in 2013 to replace the New Mexico nonprofits pulled up stakes in the state and the mental health system as yet to fully recover.

$300,000 is being proposed in HSD’s Behavioral Health Services Division base for Enhanced Care Coordination with 16 group health homes across the state with the funding for the accreditation of the group health homes to comply with Medicaid.

$300,000 is included for the Corrections Department for the increase in the behavioral health contract for inmate healthcare for a total contract amount of $2.6 million.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND JOB CREATION

According to the Governor’s executive budget summary, “in order to tackle high poverty rates, spur robust job creation, and put an end to the brain drain” the proposed budget includes significant investments in the areas of employer recruitment and retention with emphasis on the following expanding sectors:

1. The Film and television industry
2. Intelligent manufacturing
3. Sustainable and green energy
4. Cybersecurity aerospace
5. Sustainable and value-added agriculture bioscience
6. Tourism in relation to our outdoor economy

$11 million for New Mexico’s Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) is being proposed.

A particular emphasis will be placed on creating job opportunities in rural areas of New Mexico.

Funding in the amount of $75 million is included in the capital budget for “Local Economic Development Act” projects for the recruitment and retention of economic base jobs and an economic development “closing fund” that is intended to help lure out-of-state businesses to New Mexico.

An additional $6 million in funding is included for tourism marketing with an emphasis on promoting the outdoor economy to compliment a new outdoor recreation office to be established within the Economic Development Department.

The states advertising and marketing budget will go from $11 million to $17 million and no doubt will increase tourism that will stimulate local economies.

Other programs funded include:

$1.3 million for “Main Street” project programs
$140,000 for trade offices
$500,000 for the Office of Science and Technology with an additional $300,000 for the Science and Technology Research Collaborative,
$230,000 to support business incubators in rural areas and small towns, and funds to reduce the vacancy rate in the Economic Development Department specifically to improve services in rural areas.

ELIMINATING FILM INDUSTRY CREDIT CAP

Governor Lujan Grisham wants the legislature to eliminate the cap on film tax credits to unleash and support the burgeoning film industry in New Mexico.

Under the proposed budget 2019-2020 budget, $300 million in one-time funding is being proposed to pay off a backlog in state film subsidies.

In 2017, there were 74 different film production projects that claimed every cent of the $50 million in incentives.

According to a 2017 report from the New Mexico Film Office, the state spent the entire $50 million allotted for film tax credits annually in 2014.

Between 2010 and 2014 the film industry spent an estimated $513.9 million purchasing goods and services from local businesses
Sources:

https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2017/03/31/why-martinez-vetoed-film-credit-bill.html

https://www.bizjournals.com/albuquerque/news/2017/03/31/why-martinez-vetoed-film-credit-bill.html

Between 2014 and 2017, the amount of direct, in-state production spending increased from $162 million to $506 million.

New Mexico has received more than $234 million in direct spending into the economy from film projects in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

In the fiscal year 2017, there was nearly $506 million in direct spending into the New Mexico economy.

https://www.kob.com/politics-news/vote-4-nm-tax-incentives-for-the-film-industry/5128621/

CAPITAL OUTLAY PROJECTS

New Mexico’s infrastructure needs continue to outweigh available funding.

However, this year New Mexico is projecting a large surplus of $1.1 billion that could be used for one time capital outlay projects.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s priorities for capital outlay funding are focused on improving infrastructure at state facilities and supporting economic development in New Mexico
by focusing on roads, bridges and rail, and improving access to broadband.

State agencies submitted a total of $543.4 million in requests, requests for senior citizen facilities totaled $28.7 million, and higher education institutions, special and tribal schools totaled $125.6 million, for a grand total of $697.7 million to address statewide needs.

The state also has severance tax bonding capacity available totaling $236.9 million to address infrastructure and capital projects throughout the state.

The largest single category of use for senior Severance Tax Bonding capacity by the Legislature is for local capita projects, followed by higher education institutions, and last state agencies.

Funding has been included for solar charging stations throughout the state and the purchase of electric vehicles.

As part of their overall purchases of state vehicles, the Governor Lujan Grisham has instructed Executive Agencies to prioritize electric vehicle purchase.

Governor Lujan Grisham continues to be a leading advocate for senior citizens in the state.

This year’s capital budget recommendation includes funding for senior facilities, meals equipment, and emergency repairs at senior facilities statewide.

STATE PENSION PLANS

Over the last year, it has been reported that the state’s two major pension funds Educational Retirement Board (ERB) and the Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) are in serious financial trouble because of long term liabilities of benefits to paid retirees that will exceed by the billions that are available.

Both retirement systems have asked for a one-time infusion of funds, but the New Mexico legislature has resisted it as not being a truly viable solution to the problem.

In 2013, the New Mexico legislature tackled pension reform but the changes made have not been enough to make the pensions fully solvent.

PERA pays pensions to more than 40,000 retirees and also has a public employee plan for about 49,000 active members.

A shrinking government workforce as a result of government cuts and a sluggish economy has dragged down New Mexico’s largest pension program.

It is estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 state government employee vacancies and eliminated positions have 0ccured over the last 8 years.

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/lawmakers-tie-pension-shortfall-to-fewer-state-employees/article_d23fe441-eb6a-5aff-ad32-3c776b042553.html

Despite changes enacted in 2013, PERA’s estimated unfunded liability which is the gap between future retirement benefits owed and expected future assets on hand, has increased over the past four years to $4.8 billion from $4.6 billion.

Decreases in the ERB’s expected investment returns and inflation calculations have caused the system’s unfunded liability to rise to $7.4 billion, an increase of more than $1 billion since 2014 and its funded ratio to drop to 61.5 percent.

The ERB pension fund is not expected to reach 100 percent funded status for 84 years or until the year 2100.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1075327/viability-of-state-pension-funds-questioned-%C2%AD-again.html

The Lujan Grisham budget seeks to shore up New Mexico’s two major pension funds by increasing how much the state pays into workers’ retirement accounts with an approximate amount of $13.7 million.

The budget plan does not call for any additional lump sum payment into either the Educational Retirement Board or the Public Employees Retirement Association.

OTHER MAJOR BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

Under the Governor’s proposed budget, all state employees will receive salary increase under the proposed budget.

The Recommendation includes tiered salary increases of 4%, 3%, and 2% for those making less than $25,000, $25,000 to $50,000, and over $50,000, respectively

A $12 minimum wage for all state employees and public-school workers and salary increases for all state workers.

In the November, 2018 general election, New Mexico voters overwhelmingly approved a new independent ethics commission.

The Governors submitted budget in November earmarks $500,000 for the new Ethics Commission and the 2019 legislature must pass enabling legislation for the money to be appropriated.

TACKLING THE TAX CODE

Both New Mexico Senate and House legislative leadership have said for some time there is a need to overhauling New Mexico’s tax code.

With the election of a new Democrat Governor, it makes it more likely that it will happen in one form or another during the upcoming legislative session or even the next.

Lujan Grisham’s budget plan calls for several tax-related changes including tax collection on internet sales, imposing the state gross receipts tax on not-for-profit hospital services and imposing a state tax on electronic cigarettes.

Lujan-Grisham is also proposing reinstating an expired solar tax credit and expanding an existing tax break for working families.

If all the tax code charges are enacted, they would represent a net tax increase of $35 million in the coming year.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

Now the hard part begins to get the proposed budget passed by the New Mexico legislature convening on January 15, 2019.

Democrat and Republican fiscal conservatives are already complaining about the budget increases.

Democrat State Senator John Arthur Smith, the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said much of Governor Lujan Grisham’s budget recommendation are in line with a separate Legislative Finance Committee plan that will be announced before the start of a 60-day session on January 15, 2019.

However, Senator Smith still voiced concern about the possibility of a state revenue slowdown and the fiscal impact of the proposed $12 minimum wage for all state employees and public-school workers that the Governor wants by saying:

“I’m concerned their cost estimates on that are a little weak.”

House Republican Minority Whip Rod Montoya had this to say:

“What we don’t want to do is go beyond what’s responsible. … Somebody has to urge a little bit of caution.”

Commenting on the increase spending, Governor Lujan Grisham had this to say:

“For the first time in many years, our revenue projections are showing significant growth and an unprecedented amount of new money is available to invest back in our state.

Notwithstanding the 12.7 % increase in spending, Governor Michelle Lujan Gresham’s proposed first budget is fiscally prudent and responsible because it calls for $1.8 billion, or 25% of state spending, to be set aside in cash reserves in case the projected revenue from oil and gas production for the coming fiscal year don’t materialize.

Governor Michelle Lujan’s proposed budget signals a dramatic departure from the previous 8 years of downsizing government by Governor Martinez in order to avoid any and all tax increases at all cost which has resulted in a major impact on essential services.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham can take pride in the balance budget she has submitted.

The budget is indeed a reflection of someone who understands how government works.

More importantly, the proposed budget is a reflection of someone who understands the needs of the people of New Mexico and who is fully committed to getting things done.

Its a new day in New Mexico and today the sun is shining again.

The state’s fiscal year begins July 1, 2019.

POSTSCRIPT UPDATE

On January 14, 2019, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee released its budget plan.

The budget plan would increase year-over-year state spending by $670.8 million, or by 10.6%, as opposed to the Governor’s $806 million, or 12.7% increase.

The committees budget would earmark more than three-fifths of the additional spending toward public schools statewide.

There are two major differences with the Legislative Finance Committee budget plan and the budget plan released by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The legislative budget does not appropriate an estimated $300 million to pay off a backlog in state film subsidies, an action that Lujan Grisham has proposed, and does not with eliminate the an annual cap on film subsidy spending as the Governor has proposed.

In addition, the Democratic Governor Lujan Grisham has proposed earmarking $75 million for a state “closing fund” that’s intended to spur economic development by luring out-of-state companies to New Mexico and the Legislative Finance Committee budget plan only includes $4 million for the program.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1268316/nm-legislative-panel-rolls-out-7-billion-spending-package.html