Columns appear here a week after they're sent to newspaper subscribers.
Sherry Robinson photo
© 2018 New Mexico News Services 9-1o-18
Three words for lawmakers on spending new money: Roads, roads roads
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
Thanks mostly to oil and gas, legislators will have $1.2 billion or more in new money to divvy up in the next session.
After the bruising budget cutting of just a couple of years ago, it’s enough to make legislative finance people giddy. But they’re not giddy. They and we have gotten a lot more realistic about the cycles of state revenues.
There’s much talk about salting money away in reserves and a newly created rainy day fund, and that’s prudent. Beyond that, lawmakers will be awash in suggestions. Of course, that never stopped a red-blooded opinion columnist.
With the ups and down of our revenues, budgeters will have to be very careful of committing money to recurring programs – even such favorites as early childhood education – because the funding might not be there in the future.
However, this is a fine opportunity to make some one-time expenditures, and they should begin with roads.
In January, TRIP, a transportation research group, released its yearly report. Of our major roads, 27 percent are in poor condition, 20 percent mediocre, 12 percent fair, and 41 percent good. Of rural roads, 28 percent are poor, 25 percent mediocre, 13 percent fair, and 34 percent good.
Such numbers mostly argue for spending on roads, but the trouble with percentages like these is that if the roads in your county are good, you assume everybody has a good road and that the need is less urgent. If your local roads are lousy, it’s your daily experience, it interferes with your local economy, and it’s dangerous.
For example, the last time I passed over U. S. 82, between Lovington and Artesia, I was shocked at the condition of this tiny, patched-up road through the oil patch and the heavy (literally) traffic it carries. With no turn lanes and no shoulders, it has chalked up more than its share of accidents. U. S. 82 is getting belated attention, but we should wonder at the neglect of a road serving the state’s golden goose.
Recently, Steve Pearce, the Republican candidate for governor, proposed a system of toll roads in southeastern New Mexico to serve the booming oil industry. Private companies would finance and own the roads with the goal of relieving traffic bottlenecks in the oil-rich Delaware Basin.
“We have all heard the tragic stories of accidents on our highways in southeastern New Mexico,” Pearce said in a statement. “The roads are overcrowded and stressed beyond capacity, creating an unsafe situation for our New Mexico families and workers.
“People have observed correctly that the state should bear the cost of these roads, but the reality is that the political environment is weighted to the large population centers, and the problem is so severe we cannot wait the years that would be required to solve the problem with public funds.”
This is an intriguing idea. Some states have had public toll roads for many years, but New Mexicans have never liked the idea. Private toll roads are a different animal and need study. As Pearce explained it recently, the heaviest users would pay for the roads, and take some commercial traffic off public roads.
Democratic candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham’s spokesman panned the toll road idea as an “out of touch plan” and said she has plans to rebuild infrastructure, but I didn’t find those plans on her campaign website. Matter of fact, both candidates’ websites are broad, generic and lacking in detail.
This year, lawmakers did a lot of backfilling after emptying every pot of money they could find the year before. In the next session they will use new money to leave the state better prepared to weather future downturns. Spending money on roads represents another kind of preparation that would also make the state safer and more prosperous.
© 2018 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES 9-10-18
Selections from Eulogies for Senator John McCain
By Harold Morgan
New Mexico Progress
Three eulogies for Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was buried September 2 at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, speak to our nation’s highest ideals. These principles get lost in our political cacophony. Here are selections from the eulogies, provided here as both reminder and reference. Full texts are available at the links.
Meghan McCain, a political commentator: “Our republic demands responsibilities, even before it defends its rights. He knew navigating the line between good and evil was often difficult but always simple. He grasped that our purpose and meaning was rooted in a missionary responsibility, stretching back centuries.
“Just as the first Americans looked upon a new world full of potential for a grand experiment in freedom and self confidence, so their descendants have a responsibility to defend the old world from its worst self. The America of John McCain is the America of the revolution, fighters with no stomach for the summer soldier and sunshine patriot, making the world anew with bells… the America of Abraham Lincoln. Fulfilling the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, and suffering greatly to see it through… the America of the boys who rushed the colors in every war across three centuries, knowing in them is the life of the republic, and particularly those by their daring as Ronald Reagan said, gave up their chance at being husbands and fathers and grandfathers and gave up their chance to be revered old men.”
President George W. Bush: John McCain “dedicated his life to national ideals that are as perfect as men and women have yet conceived. He was motivated by a vision of America carried ever forward, ever upward, on the strength of its principles.
“He saw our country not only as a physical place or power but as the carrier of enduring human aspirations. As an advocate for the oppressed. As a defender of the peace. As a promise, unwavering, undimmed, unequaled.
“The strength of a democracy is renewed by reaffirming the principles on which it was founded. And America somehow has always found leaders who were up to that task, particularly at times of greatest need. John was born to meet that kind of challenge — to defend and demonstrate the defining ideals of our nation.
“If we are ever tempted to forget who we are, to grow weary of our cause, John's voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder: We are better than this. America is better than this.”
President Barack Obama: “John cared about the institutions of self-government, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, rule of law. Separation of powers. Even the arcane rules and procedures of the Senate. He knew that in a nation as big and boisterous and diverse as ours, those institutions, those rules, those norms are what bind us together. Give shape and order to our common life. Even when we disagree. Especially when we disagree.
John believed in honest argument and hearing our views. He understood that if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy, our democracy will not work.… That's why he championed a free and independent press as vital to our democratic debate…
“John understood as JFK understood, as Ronald Reagan understood, that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our bloodline, not on what we look like, what our last names are, not based on where our parents or grandparents came from or how recently they arrived, but on adherence to a common creed that all of us are created equal. Endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.”