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MON: Falling Oil Prices Threaten State Budget Surplus, + More

Beatnik Photos via Flickr
Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Pump jack in southeast New Mexico

Falling Oil Prices May Threaten Oil-Dependent State Budget - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A plunge in world oil prices is threatening to reverse state budget surpluses that have allowed New Mexico to make major new investments.

The upheaval Monday could affect the plans to shore up government salaries, public school education, health care and business incentives.

The state government relies on the oil sector for more than a third of its annual general fund income. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has until Wednesday to decide on an 8% annual spending increase proposed by lawmakers.

The Senate's Finance Committee chairman says a buildup in financial reserves gives the state time to maneuver if oil prices don't recover quickly. 

At the same time, he has recommended consideration of line-item vetoes to one-time spending on infrastructure projects.

University Of New Mexico To Raise Tuition By Nearly 3% - KOB-TV, Associated Press

The University of New Mexico will be raising students' tuition next fall.

KOB-TV reports the UNM Board of Regents unanimously approved the tuition spike in a budget meeting Monday morning.

Tuition will go up by 2.6%, according to Dan Garcia, president of the university's enrollment management.

Students from in the state will pay $200 more per semester. Out-of-state students will have to fork over an additional $600 per semester.

Garcia said the increase is not related to a 4% raise for some employees or a 6% drop in enrollment.

This decision comes after the university's announcement last month that students from households making $50,000 or less could be eligible for free tuition their freshman year.

Shipments Begin Arriving For Massive New Mexico Wind FarmAssociated Press

The components needed for a massive wind farm under development in eastern New Mexico have started to arrive.

Xcel Energy says the turbine parts for the Sagamore Wind Project are rolling into a railhead north of Hobbs and will be transported to the construction site in Roosevelt County starting in April. The 522-megawatt wind farm will provide electricity to Xcel's New Mexico and Texas customers when complete later this year.

The utility estimates it will take 1,920 shipments to deliver all of the components over a six-month period. The parts include lower sections, blades and generators.

New Mexico To Activate Emergency Center For Virus Outbreak - Associated Press

New Mexico is activating the state health department's operations center in a move that officials say will help prepare for any emergency activities related to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Health said Friday in a statement that the department's Bureau of Health and Emergency Management will activate the center on Monday.

The state's coronavirus website said results of all 48 tests conducted by the state health laboratory through Friday were negative.

Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel said activation of the center is part of the agency's steps "to assure New Mexico is ready for any emergency." 

The department said activation will help top state officials make informed decisions on the virus-related operations while ensuring that department personnel have what the agency called "the highest level of situational awareness and communication within the department."

Court Hearing May Decide Whether Roswell Lawsuit Can Proceed - Roswell Daily Record, Associated Press

A court hearing Monday may decide whether a lawsuit against the city of Roswell and the New Mexico Environment Department should proceed.

The widow of local businessman and former Golden Gloves boxer Raymond Anaya filed the lawsuit last November.

The Roswell Daily Record reports that the city and state Environment Department have asked for dismissal of the case.

Lynda Anaya alleges the two entities were negligent in their responsibilities by failing to give proper notification to her and her husband about pollutants that she contends contributed to his death and to the health problems that he experienced prior to his November 2017 death at age 73.

Lynda Anaya also alleges her husband's health problems and death were caused by or related to the chemicals used by various dry cleaners in the area where the couple ran their consulting and tax services business.

The newspaper says the commercial building is one of four locations in the city that is part of a Superfund site that's considered a known area of contamination.

New Mexico Conventions Set Primary Lineups For Congress - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Former CIA operative Valerie Plame's bid for a congressional seat in northern New Mexico fell flat at a statewide Democratic convention where she failed to win enough local delegate votes to automatically qualify for the primary ballot. 

She vowed to stay in contention by submitting more petition signatures from supporters. 

Candidates for an open congressional seat in New Mexico underwent the first test of their political might as the Democratic and Republican parties of New Mexico held statewide conventions. 

Voting rights advocate Teresa Leger Fernandez and Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya will appear atop the primary ballot for the state's 3rd Congressional District. 

Both Hispanic women hail from politically active families in Las Vegas, New Mexico. They emerged from a field of seven initial candidates seeking to succeed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is running for U.S. Senate as Democratic Sen. Tom Udall retires. 

Democrats have monopolized the 3rd Congressional District since its creation in 1982 with the exception of one special election.

Albuquerque Route 66 Section Sees Fatal Pedestrian Crashes - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Nearly one in five fatal pedestrian crashes in New Mexico's largest city last year occurred in a dimly lighted and highly congested section of historic Route 66 — an area plagued by poverty.

An analysis by the Albuquerque Journal found that Albuquerque saw 42 deaths in 2019 related to fatal pedestrian collisions, and a significant number of these occurred in the International District, an area city officials call "forgotten." The nearly 3-mile stretch experienced eight pedestrian deaths last year.

This section of Route 66 — Central Avenue between San Pedro and Eubank — is in a part of Albuquerque known for high crime rates, a large homeless population, and outdated infrastructure.

KUNM reported last year, the corridor lacks the same amount of street lights seen in more affluent parts of the city.

It doesn't appear the city is doing much to the address the treacherous foyer.

About 10 months ago, Mayor Tim Keller and the city of Albuquerque signed onto the Vision Zero pledge, a promise to eventually end traffic fatalities in Albuquerque. 

A task force spent months identifying crosswalks to update at schools citywide. Plans are in the works to revamp travel on another part of Route 66 in the western part of the city.

But none of those changes is occurring in the place hit hardest by fatalities in the International District's section of Route 66.

New Mexico State To Drop Intensive English Program - Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

New Mexico State University is restructuring its international programs and will drop an intensive English program amid travel bans.

The school recently announced it will end its non-credit intensive English language offerings provided by the Center for English Language Programs, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported. The center will fold permanently on May 15.

The move comes after the Chronicle of Higher Education reported the number of new students from abroad to the U.S. has fallen 10 percent since 2015 amid the travel ban, shifts in visa policy, and increased competition from other countries.

New Mexico State has experienced recent years of decline in enrollment and revenue from tuition and research funds at the land grant university.

New Mexico State University Provost Carol Parker is moving to consolidate international and border initiatives, including the creation of a new interdisciplinary community of practice branded "Beyond Borders." She also reorganized the International and Border Programs office.

Parker says that the center had been spread too thinly in recent years.

TV Pilot 'Capitol Barbie' Tackles Gender, Race And Politics - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

A New Mexico-based production company has plans to begin working on a new television pilot in Albuquerque that will be tackling some big topics. 

The New Mexico Film Office says work on 'Capitol Barbie' is scheduled to start this month at sites around the city. 

Directed and produced by Albuquerque-based filmmaker Riley Del Rey, the mini-series is described as a "mean girls style political thriller" about aspiring Latinos working in Washington, D.C. 

Del Rey says the aim is to create a show that will engage different political philosophies and inspire debate. 

The production will feature an all-New Mexico cast and crew.