New Mexico’s Budget Crisis: “It’s No Laughing Matter” (RADIO SPOT)

With the prospect of a special session of the legislature fast approaching to address a looming budget crisis, the Center for Civic Policy is running this radio ad in selected areas of the state which offers our take on the issue and calls upon constituents to take action:

A thirty-second radio spot can hardly do justice to this fiscal train wreck. A bit of context is in order.

The State of New Mexico faces a serious budget deficit as the result of a shortfall in revenues. Revenue projections made back in January were overly optimistic, it seems. It now appears certain that Governor Martinez soon will call a special session of the legislature to fix a growing budget crisis.

The Governor’s answer is a 5 percent across the board cut in funding for state agencies. New revenues are off the table, she says.

To call this approach unwise would be an understatement. How about unconscionable.

Consider these facts about the quagmire in which New Mexico finds itself:

  • 49th in child poverty
  • K-12 funding is nearly 11% less per student than pre-2008 recession levels
  • 7,000 fewer children fewer children receive child care assistance than in 2010
  • Medicaid was already underfunded this year by $86 million, causing cuts of over $400 million in health care services when lost federal matching dollars are included.
  • Low- and middle-income New Mexicans pay twice the rate in state and local taxes as the richest 1 percent.

We could go on and on.

Low oil prices are cited as the cause of the crisis. But overlooked in the midst of all the hand-wringing, are the horribly irresponsible tax policies enacted in recent years.

The cold hard truth of the matter is this: The Governor is determined to protect her prized corporate tax giveaways by making New Mexico’s working families pay for them.

In 2013 Governor Martinez and the legislature gave huge tax cuts and tax breaks to large corporations, many of them out-of-state. These so-called “business incentives” were supposed to cause an explosion of job creation.

Well, it hasn’t worked. They just took the money and ran.

Today New Mexico has the 3rd highest jobless rate in the nation.

It stands to reason that our continuing underinvestment in education and healthcare is making New Mexico a less than desirable place for companies that are looking for a place to relocate.

A better answer is for legislators to say “no” to more cuts. It’s time to make corporations and the well-connected pay their fair share.

 

Give Yourself the Greatest Gift: A Healthier You in 2012!

By Anthony Fleg, MD

As a family physician, one thing that I find in listening to people tell me about their lives is that most of us (health professionals included!) have our own health as a very low priority in our lives.  I will hear people tell me how they go out of their way in sacrificing for their job, their children, their significant others, and their communities. Rarely do I hear the same degree of effort being put toward appreciating one’s own body and health.

I like to give the simple scenario of an alien looking in from outer space and seeing New Mexicans rushing around 8-10 hours a day for their jobs, but unwilling to take 30 minutes of the day to exercise, relax, or prepare a healthy meal. Ironically, we are ignoring the very bodies that allow us to do all of the other things we are so focused on doing. That vantage point gives a true look at how we value our health.

My hope is that you will take some time away from family to think about how you can make your health a more central part of your life in the year to come. What activities do you already do for your health? What areas of your health would you like to improve?

I do not think there is a recipe I can give for how to do this, but I will offer a few thoughts to help start you thinking in this realm:

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House passes food stamp supplement unanimously

By Matthew Reichbach

The House of Representatives passed a bill unanimously that would take advantage of federal funds to shore up food stamp benefits as well as putting the rest of the federal stimulus funds towards Medicaid before the money reverts back to the federal government. The bill would provide $450,000 in funding for food stamp additions for elderly and disabled New Mexicans.

Rep. Dennis Roch (R-Tucumcari) said that his legislation, HB 18, needed to pass soon because the money would revert back to the federal government at the end of September.

“This cannot wait until January,” Roch told the House Appropriations and Finance Committee earlier Friday. “It absolutely cannot.”

The non-controversial bill cleared two committees before the House passed the legislation on Friday.

In addition to making sure that over $6 million in Medicaid funding does not revert to the federal government, the supplement makes sure that elderly and disabled New Mexicans receive at least $25 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding, even if the amount of federal funding dips down to $16.

This will fund the program through the next three quarters.

Some of the money in the fund could be general funds that were in there to match with the federal funds before it reverted back to the federal government, Roch said on the House floor.

House Majority Leader Ken Martinez (D-Grants) expressed concern over using one-time money, in this case federal stimulus funds, to cover a recurring expense.

Gov. Susana Martinez used federal stimulus funds to keep the program going in June. Otherwise, the program was set to end by July 1.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it must pass before Martinez can sign the legislation.

Odds and Ends

The House and Senate also both passed Public Education Committee redistricting legislation. The committee has the power over approving charter schools.

Health insurance reform may benefit New Mexico economically

By Matthew Reichbach

The Medicaid expansion through the health care reform law will more than pay for itself in New Mexico according to analysts from New Mexico Voices for Children. Bill Jordan, Policy Director for New Mexico Voices for Children, and Kelly O’Donnell, an economist, gave a presentation to the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy interim committee Friday in Albuquerque explaining how New Mexico’s tax structure lends itself to taking advantage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

The two were questioned by the committee on how the tax structure would help and whether or not the health care act would actually help lower income residents receive health insurance.

There are two main revenue streams from the federal government that New Mexico will benefit from according to Jordan. One is the money coming in directly from Medicaid. The other money is the money that would come in the form of tax breaks for health insurance for low-income individuals.

“Those are the two main streams of funds and ways that people will get insurance,” Jordan told Clearly New Mexico following the hearing. “Both of those, Medicaid and the private insurance that is bought on the health care exchange, are taxed already and will be taxed with a 4 percent health insurance premium tax. And that plus our gross receipts tax and other minor taxes, like personal income tax, will generate enough tax revenue that we’ll have more than enough money to pay for our share of the Medicaid expansion that’s coming.”

HSD, advocacy groups at odds over Medicaid’s future

The hearing comes after the state’s Human Services Department has said a redesign of Medicaid is necessary because it is unsustainable as it is currently run. Many more people will be eligible for Medicaid in 2014 because of the PPACA. The federal government will cover the vast majority of the costs for the first few years, though this phases out and New Mexico will be on the hook for ten percent of the costs of the new Medicaid enrollees when it is completely phased out.

This summer, HSD Cabinet Secretary Sedonie Squire rejected a call for a public Medicaid Redesign Task Force. The call came from advocacy organizations, including New Mexico Voices for Children, which were not happy about the secrecy of the Medicaid redesign.

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Breathe Tradition, Not Addiction: Youth artists bring the message!

By Anthony Fleg, Native Health Initiative

3,500 youth will light their first cigarette today.

1,000 of these will become regular smokers.

350 of this group will eventually die from tobacco related illnesses.

But this article is not about that group, nor is it about more depressing statistics around the biggest preventable cause of death in our country.

Here, we want to introduce you to two youth champions who are working toward a world without smoking. This past week, Joel Ladon and Tychelle Herron from Ramah, NM travelled to present their Tar Wars posters in prestigious settings, at the New Mexico Academy of Family Physicians (NMAFP) annual seminar in Ruidoso, and at the national Tar Wars conference in Washington D.C., respectively.

Tar Wars, a national program to teach 4th and 5th grade students about the harms of smoking, holds a poster contest where youth create anti-smoking advertisements. In NM, a partnership called the Native Health Initiative (NHI) helps the NMAFP run the Tar Wars program and poster contest. NHI has added a twist to the program, incorporating the traditional/ceremonial/medicinal ways that tobaccos are used into an anti-smoking curriculum.

“When we hear educators talk about being tobacco-free, as Dine’ and as Indigenous people, we may be confused, since traditional tobaccos are so important to us as people,” comments Shannon Fleg (Dine’) who is a health educator with NHI who came up with the Breathe Tradition, Not Addiction campaign.

“We decided to take a big step this year and work on getting our poster winners to receive bigger recognition for their work,” says Andrew Goumas, an NHI Coordinator who helps coordinate the Tar Wars NM program.

Tychelle and her mother, Melinda Herron worked for months to fundraise to make the trip to D.C. possible, receiving donations from many in the Ramah community. “We received bundles of wood, leatherwork and lots of other donations that we used to fundraise for the trip,” says Melinda. “It was a chance for Tychelle to get on a plane for the first time, and to see our nation’s capitol, and we were going to do whatever it took to make it happen for her.”

Tychelle and her mother stand by Tychelle’s poster in the “Parade of Posters” at the national Tar Wars Conference in Washington D.C.

Tychelle represented New Mexico at the Tar Wars Conference, where one youth winner from each state was picked to attend. Her poster was titled, Breathe Tradition, Not Addiction and was the only one at the conference that incorporated traditional tobacco.

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It’s Official: Gov. Martinez Wants Full Repeal of Federal Health Care Reform

By Charlotte Chinana

“The first step for a successful Medicaid transformation is the full repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

– An excerpt from a letter signed by 29 Republican Governors – including New Mexico’s
Susana Martinez – outlining seven principles for Medicaid Reform.

A day before the Health and Human Services Interim Committee met and heard from the NM’s Human Services Department (HSD), about their plans to redesign the state’s Medicaid program, Gov. Martinez joined several of her colleagues in signing on to a letter calling for the “full repeal” of the Federal Health Reform Act (otherwise known as the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” – or PPACA).

The repeal-support letter, written as a response to a report released in March, by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), reiterates the claims made regarding costs that the states would assume, by expanding Medicaid under PPACA.

According to the Hatch-Upton report, it “conservatively estimates” that the PPACA Medicaid expansion would “cost state taxpayers at least $118.04 billion through 2023” – and provided state-by-state projections.

The report and its findings, however, were subsequently challenged by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, on the grounds that the report is “wholly unsound”:

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