Here’s a look at today’s headlines:
A recently released poll conducted by Third Eye Strategies for the Center for Civic Policy shows that while New Mexicans are divided on many issues, they come together in opposition to imposing a new sales tax on food. Data from the poll shows that four-fifths (80%) of registered voters oppose taxing food and just 15% support it. When couched as part of a broader effort to lower the sales tax on all goods, opposition stays strong (62%) while support comes in at just 29%. Voters in all income groups oppose it similarly.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday that $150 million of funding is available for the Conservation Stewardship Program, and ag producers need to submit their applications to their local USDA Service Center by the March 31st deadline. The Conservation Stewardship Program is UDSA’s largest conservation program and New Mexico consistently ranks in the top 5 nationwide very year for acres obligated under the program.
Denver-based company Healthgrades has awarded both Presbyterian Hospital and University of New Mexico Hospital their 2016 Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence Award — an award that places both hospitals in the top 5 percent for clinical care in the country.
New Mexico teachers and some administrators at various levels would see minimum salaries increase under a pared-down proposal that cleared a Senate committee Wednesday despite objections about the push being an unfunded mandate. The Senate Education Committee advanced the measure following a debate that centered on evaporating revenue projections for the next fiscal year.
In legislative action: the New Mexico Senate Public Affairs Committee today voted to move Senate Bill 191: Opioid Abuse Prevention and Assisted Treatment forward. The bill’s sponsors opted for a non-traditional presentation during yesterday’s hearing and demonstrated how one aspect of the Bill could be one step closer to helping solve New Mexico’s high rates of prescription drug abuse. New Mexico’s drug overdose death rate has been one of the highest in the nation for most of the last two decades. New Mexico’s death rate has more than tripled since 1990. Senate Bill 191 will now move to the Senate Corporations Committee for a hearing next week. The House version of the same bill, House Bill 241 will be heard in the House Business and Employment Committee next week as well.
A New Mexico State Senator is trying for the third time legislation to end the diversion of taxpayer dollars to pay for general operating expenses at Spaceport America. Senator Lee Cotter maintains that voters in the two counties supported an increase in their gross receipts tax to go towards repaying the debt for the construction of the Spaceport—which lies in Sierra County—over 20 years. But now he says they’re paying more.