New Mexico Saw 1 Million More Visits Last Year, Immigrant Rights Group Cites Delays In Tax-Refunds

Jul 5, 2017

New Mexico Gov. Martinez: 1M More Visits To State Last Year – Associated Press

About a million more trips were made to New Mexico in 2016 than the previous year, breaking another tourism record for the state, Gov. Susana Martinez announced today.

Speaking to tourism officials in Albuquerque, the Republican governor said 34.4 million trips were taken in New Mexico last year and that surpassed the previous record set in 2015.

In fact, Martinez said, tourism figures have shown a steady increase since she took office in 2011 and her administration launched the New Mexico True campaign to draw out-of-state visitors.

"The numbers speak for themselves," Martinez told the audience. "For the 5th consecutive year, New Mexico has experienced record-breaking tourism."

The numbers are based on survey data from New Mexico visitors collected by research firm Longwoods International.

The latest figures came as Albuquerque — the state's largest city — has been plagued by property crime and New Mexico continues to struggle with a high unemployment rate.

Automotive thefts, for example, have jumped in recent years, according to data from the FBI and Albuquerque police. Last month, a thief drove off with a truck from the television news crew of the NBC affiliate KOB-TV while the crew was working on a story about crime in downtown Albuquerque.

Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham said state officials haven't seen any evidence that concerns about crime are discouraging visitors from coming to the state. She said the survey showed the New Mexico True campaign was responsible for 55 percent of overnight visitors in 2016.

New Mexico True advertisements have been spotted in airports around the country. Commercials include local celebrities.

Tourist attractions promoted by state officials include New Mexico's many national monuments.

Desert ranchers in New Mexico are hoping the Trump administration will dramatically shrink a recently designated national monument in the south of the state where outlaw Billy the Kid and Apache leader Geronimo once sought refuge.

The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument is among 27 monuments where a review ordered by President Donald Trump might remove protections previously considered irreversible.

Martinez said the state will promote the sites whether they are national monuments or not.

Immigrant Rights Group Cites Delays In Tax-Refund SettlementAssociated Press

Attorneys for an immigrant rights group say the state of New Mexico is taking too much time to review past tax filings that could result in refunds to thousands of foreign nationals.

Marisa Bono is an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and told a district court judge today that eight months have passed since the state signed an agreement to automatically return tax refunds that were wrongfully withheld in 2015.

The agreement has ended a lawsuit against the Taxation and Revenue Department alleging a practice of withholding tax refunds owed to foreign nationals starting in 2012 based on mismatched tax identification numbers.

An attorney for the agency says that complying with the agreement is a complicated task made more difficult during tax filing season and by a management shakeup.

Panel Considers Salaries Of New Mexico Judges Associated Press

An independent panel of legal experts is considering the salaries of New Mexico's judges in hopes of making recommendations to lawmakers and state finance officials for an increase in the 2019 fiscal year.

The six-member Judicial Compensation Commission is meeting Wednesday in Santa Fe.

A survey by the National Center for State Courts shows the annual salary for a district judge in New Mexico ranks lowest in the nation. Pay for a state Supreme Court justice ranks next to last. Only justices in Maine earn less.

The salaries of New Mexico judges have remained unchanged since 2014 when a 5 percent increase was enacted.

The commission in 2016 had recommended a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment and a 5 percent base salary increase, arguing that improved salaries were needed to recruit experienced attorneys for judgeships.

New Mexico Gov. Martinez: Trump's Tweets 'Not Appropriate' Associated Press

The nation's only Latina governor says recent tweets from President Donald Trump about an MSNBC female host and a mock video attacking CNN were "not appropriate" and "not helpful."

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a fellow Republican, said today that the country needed to focus on more important issues like education and the economy.

Martinez says she's more worried about the national labs in New Mexico being protected.

This weekend, Trump tweeted a mock video showing him pummeling a man in a business suit outside a wrestling ring. The man's face is obscured with the CNN logo.

Last week, Trump tweeted that MSNBC morning show host Mika Brzezinski was "bleeding badly from a facelift" when he saw her around the New Year.

Martinez was critical of Trump during the presidential campaign.

Southern New Mexico Democratic Senator Jumps In Gov's Race Associated Press

A southern New Mexico Democratic senator in the state's swing region is jumping into the race for governor.

Senator Joseph Cervantes, an architect and Las Cruces attorney, announced today that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in a direct challenge to Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham and other Democrats wanting to succeed Republican Governor Susana Martinez.

Cervantes says he wants to focus on fixing the state's economy and educational system, and will try to change various policies that drive young people from the state.

The 56-year-old Democrat says he is different from his Democratic opponents because he's a small business owner and worked on a farm as a teen.

Term limits prevent Republican Governor Susana Martinez from seeking re-election in 2018.

Woman Dies In Kayaking Accident On Rio Grande Associated Press

A woman died in a kayaking accident in the Rio Grande near Corrales.

Cmdr. Tanya Lattin of the Corrales Fire Department says a family of seven — five adults and two children — were in a couple of kayaks and a canoe Tuesday when one of the kayaks hit an eddy caused by a tree. The disturbance flipped the craft and sent the woman into the water.

The name of the woman was not released.

Lattin says everyone in the kayak was wearing a life jacket, but the woman's jacket was not on her when her body was found.

Lattin says she does not know what caused the woman's life jacket to come off.

Investigators say there was no alcohol or drugs involved.

New Mexico High Court Upholds Convictions In Double Killings - Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld the murder convictions of two men in separate 2011 double killings.

A unanimous decision upholds Carlos Carrillo's convictions in the killings of Christopher Kinney and Lyndsey Frost in Albuquerque. The victims were found fatally shot in a pickup parked at a park in the Old Town area following what police believed was a disagreement and a possible confrontation between Carrillo and Kinney.

A separate ruling also issued last week by the state high court upholds Enrique Deleon's convictions in the fatal shootings of Joe Valero and Guadalupe Castaneda at their Clovis home following an argument during a backyard barbeque.

Both men were sentenced to life terms on their murder convictions.

Students Caught In Crossfire Over Public School Meal Debts Associated Press

Public school districts in the U.S. are rethinking how they cope with unpaid lunch debts amid a wave of outrage over practices that single out children by taking food out of their hands or stamping them with a payment reminder.

The U.S. Agriculture Department is requiring districts to adopt policies this month for addressing meal debts and to inform parents at the start of the academic year.

The agency isn't specifically barring some of the potentially embarrassing tactics. It is encouraging schools to work more closely with parents to address delinquent accounts and ensure children don't go hungry in classrooms.

Some states are taking matters into their own hands, with New Mexico this year becoming the first to outlaw school-meal shaming and several others weighing similar laws.

Lowrider Street Art Merges With Museum Works At LA Exhibit Associated Press

Lowrider cars these days are far more than tricked-out automobiles with gravity-challenged rear suspensions and ear-rattling exhaust systems that seem to cry out for cops to ticket the drivers.

In their finest format, they have morphed into museum-quality works of art, appearing in shows around the world.

Lowrider historian Denise Sandoval says these elaborately painted automobiles have done more than just that, however. They've also inspired a genre of pop art involving artists working on canvas, in sculpture and other media.

Sandoval strives to bring that movement to light with "The High Art of Riding Low," an exhibition of lowrider cars and lowrider-inspired art she's curating at Los Angeles' Petersen Automotive Museum.

The exhibition opened Monday. It runs until next June.

New Mexico Dodges Another Credit Rating Downgrade Associated Press

New Mexico appears to have dodged an additional downgrade to its bond rating.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday Moody's Investor Service announced last week the state would keep its current bond rating for general obligation bonds but with a "negative" outlook for the future.

A rating downgrade could have led to higher borrowing rates for infrastructure projects.

Moody's had downgraded New Mexico's top rating for general obligation bonds in October — it's now AA1 instead of AAA — and some lawmakers had expressed concern about the possibility of a second downgrade.

In announcing New Mexico's bond rating would not change, the credit rating agency cited several special session actions aimed at shoring up the state's budget, including setting aside more money in cash reserves and creating a rainy-day fund.