New Mexico's Annual Tax Breaks Surpass $1 Billion, State Suicide Rate Drops

Sep 16, 2017

New Mexico's Annual Tax Breaks Surpass $1 Billion – Associated Press

An examination of New Mexico state tax breaks by the Office of the State Auditor shows that extractive industries such as oil, coal and copper mining together account for the largest share of foregone revenue.

The report was presented to state lawmakers Friday by State Auditor Tim Keller and staff. It tallies more than $1 billion in estimated tax breaks in 2016. The state waived nearly $400 million in taxes from extractive industries.

Exemptions, deductions and credits on gross receipts taxes account for about one-quarter of tax breaks. Recent tax reform efforts by lawmakers and Gov. Susana Martinez focused on shoring up gross receipts tax revenues on sales and business services, while avoiding redundant charges.

Of 180 tax breaks identified in the report, 23 had no available data.

Police: New Mexico Justice System Is Broken, Changes Needed – Associated Press

New Mexico's top law enforcement officer says the state's criminal justice system is broken, overtasked and strained by a lack of resources.

His comments came Friday as he and San Juan County authorities provided updates on a deadly traffic stop in which police shot and killed a suspect after he pulled a revolver from his waistband and opened fire.

One of the rounds wounded a state police officer when it struck his badge and sent shrapnel flying.

State Police Chief Pete Kassetas described the case of 26-year-old William Wilson as a classic example, outlining a criminal history that dated back years and included numerous charges and probation violations.

Kassetas said there needs to be a more comprehensive statewide risk assessment tool for district attorneys and judges to use when determining whether defendants should remain behind bars pending trial.

New Mexico Suicide Rate Drops Associated Press

Suicides are down in New Mexico for the first time in several years.

That's according to the New Mexico Department of Health, which reports a 6 percent drop in the number of suicides in 2016 when compared to 2015.

The department says that's reversing a rising trend of suicides in the last three years. The department offers prevention efforts like training public school staff and community members as well as providing media guidelines on safely reporting on suicide.

Suicide doesn't have just one single cause, and data show risk factors include depression, abuse relationship problems, health conditions, financial challenges and legal problems.

For help, contact the New Mexico Crisis Line at 1-855-NMCRISIS or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

New Mexico Unemployment In August Was 6.3 Percent Associated Press

The state of New Mexico says the latest unemployment rate in the Land of Enchantment is 6.3 percent.

That's down from 6.8 percent a year ago.

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions says that 6.3 percent rate is for August and didn't change from July.

The national unemployment rate is 4.4 percent.

New Mexico's leisure and hospitality industry had the highest growth with an increase of 4,000 jobs, or a 4 percent growth. Professional and business services also added more jobs and has reported growth for over two years straight.

But wholesale trade saw major losses of 500 jobs, as did mining, which was down 2.1 percent.

Suspected Thieves Crash Into Home, Police Car Before Arrests Associated Press

Bernalillo County sheriff's deputies had to jump out of the way after suspected thieves in two vehicles drove in their direction while fleeing a burglary on Thursday.

The sheriff's office says deputies were responding to an alarm call at an auto auction business when they saw headlights leaving the front gate and had to jump out of the way.

A semi cab and a flatbed truck drove off, starting a pursuit that ended when the truck crashed into a house and an unoccupied Albuquerque police vehicle. The driver of that truck ran off but was later caught. The driver of the semi cab crashed into a car and stopped. Its driver fled and hasn't been caught, but a passenger was taken into custody.

Deputies say 51-year-old John Brumett and 37-year-old Ryan Shook are facing numerous charges.

Feds Announce $62 Million For Navajo Water Pipeline Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Interior says it's awarded a nearly $62 million contract for construction of a water pipeline between two northwestern New Mexico communities.

The pipeline is part of the greater Navajo-Gallup Water Supply project, which has been in the works for several years in an effort to get running water to rural and tribal communities that don't have it.

The contract for a Roanoke, Texas, company will include 28 miles of pipeline between Naschitti and Twin Lakes. Construction is scheduled to start in January and end in March 2020.

The overall project aims to create a sustainable water supply for Navajo Nation and Jicarilla Apache residents and Gallup. It'll consist of 300 miles of pipeline, two water treatment plants, 19 pumping plants and several water storage tanks.

Iffy Endorsements, Donations Marks Albuquerque Mayor's Race Associated Press

Questionable endorsements and eyebrow-raising donations are clouding Albuquerque's open mayoral race.

Candidates are facing scrutiny for endorsements from controversial former police officers, and campaign donations have drawn complaints.

State Audit Tim Keller's mayoral campaign page boasts endorsements from former Albuquerque Police Chief Sam Baca and former police sergeant Paul Heh.

Baca's trouble tenure was marked by accusations of keeping "intelligence files" on political opponents. Heh was connected to a police department's overtime scandal and has been linked to a blog that posts expletive-laced attacks on city workers.

Legacy Church pastor Steve Smothermon recently endorsed candidate Dan Lewis and said he wouldn't "support the homosexual agenda."

Keller and candidate Wayne Johnson both are facing complaints about campaign donations.

Candidate Brian Colon also is facing criticism for working for a law firm that defends officers involved in shootings.

Medicaid Strains New Mexico State Finances Associated Press

Medicaid health care spending is expected to put an increased strain on New Mexico state finances in the coming fiscal year, even with generous federal provisions of the Obama administration left in place.

In documents released Thursday, the state Human Services Department that oversees Medicaid has requested an $84 million increase in general fund spending for the budget year that starts in July 2018.

The demands could make it more difficult for the state to sustain spending on courts, classrooms and universities. Congress may remove some of the pressure by extending support to the nationwide Children's Health Insurance Program.

New Mexico is on track to collect $25 million more in the coming fiscal year than it currently spends, as surging oil production pulls state government out of a budget crisis.