Friday, January 8, 2010

View From The Ditch Bank

PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES---No, it's not a movie I'm talking about, but if it was, it might be considered a "Comedy of Errors". I'm talking about the State of New Mexico and what is going on here. Any one not familiar with New Mexico politics, And if you are familiar with politics, you probably know about ours, our State legislature meets once a year to see what they can do for, or to, the State. In odd number years they meet for a 60 day session and do whatever comes to mind, and that is a lot, but maybe a subject for another blog. In even years they meet for 30 days and are restricted to budget and finance items only. Of course, they can spin finance into nearly any thing that appeals to them. This year, being an even year, they meet ( starting later this month ) for a 30 day session. Last fall we the people were informed that the State was facing a budget shortfall of around $200 million, and a special session was called by our governor to close this gap. One of the first things they hit was education, cutting their budgets. Then we were told that this, as well as some other things they came up with, was only a band aid and the shortfall was more like $400 million. Now it is time for them to meet and the shortfall is being reported as closer to $700 million. To help balance the budget the governor has mandated that all state employees will take five mandatory days off, with out pay, over a three month period. This will save $8 million. He has also said he will lay off most of his personal appointees, who earned an average salary of $142,000 a year. This will also save $8 million. He refuses to say who these appointees are, and will not say what they did to earn that money. Of course, education is scheduled for another budget hit, along with other "services". So, what does this have to do with the opening of this blog. Well, I'll tell you. When the governor took office, the state was riding the crest of high gas prices, as New Mexico is a producer of oil and natural gas, so had a lot of money rolling in from revenues. So the gov decided he needed a new airplane. The legislature said no, but he bought one any way. An expensive one. He said the state needed it. He also spent millions buying track and developing a train that is now called the Rail Runner, and covers a 90 to 100 mile corridor from Belen to Santa Fe'. While this a popular mode of transportation for those living in that corridor, most of the population of the state have to drive hours to even get within viewing distance of it. OK, so I have no objection to the train, or the concept of it, but a news report last year said that it takes $20 million a year to operate and maintain this train, with $4 million coming from ticket sales and the rest from taxes, paid by all of the state population. It was also reported that if they set the ticket price high enough to pay it's way, no one would ride the train? Hmmm. OK, now to automobiles. As we travel the highways and byways of the state we are constantly seeing state vehicles plying the highways also. Usually traveling 5 to 10 miles an hour over the posted speed limit. And these are not plain government sedans. They are large, expensive SUV's, heavy duty pickups, and if it is a sedan, it is a top of the line expensive model. So, we can't afford the plane, so we need to sell it and return the money to the budget. (The state has other planes ) Raise the ticket prices of the train so it will pay for itself, saving $16 million for the state. And see why, in this day of electronic communication, so many state employees need to be traveling. And if they must travel, why do they need such expensive vehicles? On a related item, kudos to the new mayor of Albuquerque, who, when he was told that he could have a brand new car, chose to use one the city already had, with 41,000 miles on it. And while we can do without some of the "services" provided by the State, we need a good education system, so leave that alone. And that's The View From The Ditch Bank.

1 comment:

  1. As someone in the education field, I do not understand why that is always the place budget trimming starts? Do they not understand that if we do not educate these children properly, there is no future? Do we really want a doctors that cannot read and write? Government employees that can't balance a check book (oh, wait, perhaps I misspoke there)

    Having come through educational budget cuts and facing more next year, I always wonder why the sports programs do not take the hits, but the math, english, history and science departments bear the brunt of it along with our special education programs. And staffing in schools? You can only run a school so long with no peripherial staff.

    We were talking about it in the office just the other day and we suggested that perhaps they, the legislature, should spend 1 week doing what we do in the trenches. I am sure then they could find somewhere else to trim the budget if they tried.


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