Archive for December, 2014

Updated: 12/06/2014 10:06 PM | Created: 12/06/2014 9:11 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A local accounting firm says earlier this week, they received letters detailing how much their clients would need to pay into the state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund as part of new calculations set for 2015. For many of their clients, they say, it could be a bigger price tag than they expected.

“People are saying, ‘I don’t even see [the point of] being in business,'” accountant Anita Lovato said. “One of the ones that was $10,000 a year said, ‘It’s not worth it…it’s not worth fighting this.'”

Many small businesses have seen a tough few years – construction companies in particular. Less income meant cutting staff, something Empire Accounting says their clients didn’t take lightly.

“These people are New Mexico people who have small businesses…and a lot of them [are] family owned,” Lovato said.

Starting in 2015, businesses that had to do layoffs or firings that sent people into unemployment will pay more into that fund. Like with home or car insurance, those who use the fund more pay more, so some employers will see lower rates. But accountant Linda Sedillo worries that those who are about to shell out more are those who’ve already tightened their belts.

“I think it could lead to more unemployment. The construction industry especially has been affected so bad by the economy, and they are just now maybe starting to see things get better…and with these higher rates, they’re going to have to budget in $10,000 more a year… that’s impossible in this kind of economy,” Sedillo said.

Workforce Solutions released the following statement about the rate calculations:

“Strong bi-partisan legislation passed almost unanimously in 2013 changed the way in which employers’ contribution rates are calculated in New Mexico. For too long, politics drove how employer rates would be calculated in future years, leaving the entire business community in limbo, and jeopardizing the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund solvency. Rates will now be more closely tied to employers’ actual benefit charges, and overall industry average. This change becomes effective in January, 2015.

Many experienced and new employers will benefit greatly from this new formula, with lower rates than in past years. Some employers, due to their industry or their actual history of benefit charges in the unemployment insurance program, may see increased rates.

Regardless of the size of a company, rates are driven by the employer’s individual experience with the program. Like a true insurance program, higher rates are driven by high usage of the program.

If any employer would like a review of their new rate or should have any questions they may contact the Unemployment Insurance Operations Center via email at uitax.support@state.nm.us or call 1-877-664-6984 (Option 3), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.”

Day in and day out, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG) is on the front lines supporting the public’s right to know. FOG has been educating, advocating, and litigating for transparency and accountability in NM government for almost 25 years.

So what? Why should you care? Isn’t access to public records a game of inside baseball that only political wonks and the press track? If you care about the state of the economy, you should care about open government. It’s not just about transparency and good government. It’s also about jobs and economic development say a growing number of experts and policymakers.

Journalists were the first to push for access to public records in the ‘60s and ‘70s to find out what government was doing and to hold public officials accountable. However, today requests for public records are predominantly filed by businesses, outnumbering requests from the press by three or four to one, according to one nationwide survey.

Although we don’t have hard statistics in New Mexico, records custodians report that the majority of requestors represent commercial interests—from Landmen in the Permian Basin to realtors in Santa Fe, from lawyers in Las Cruces to technology entrepreneurs in Albuquerque. One state agency that has been tracking Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) requests in 2014 found that commercial IPRA requests were four times greater than IPRAs filed by journalists.

Open data in particular is changing the landscape of government transparency. According to a benchmark study released last month by Socrata, a privately held cloud software company, a vast majority of respondents said reliance on government open data by private sector organizations is now established and can spark economic development. A significant proportion of public officials responding to the survey said open data has led directly to economic development in their community with a large majority (75%) saying they have seen direct benefits in new businesses forming and 73% reporting an increase in jobs. A smaller but still large majority (59%) also has seen increased tax revenues.

Another recent report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. said that open data’s economic potential is estimated at more than $3 trillion in the global economy. According to the McKinsey report, government will play a key role in generating that economic activity and stands to gain significantly from it through increases in tax revenue, reductions in the cost of government transactions, increases in service efficiency and in the creation of jobs.

The late Peter Weiss of the U.S. National Weather Service observed that the largest information generator—the government—is an important input like gas, coal or water to the economic process. “The database and information retrieval industries in the United States are large and have grown exponentially since the beginning of the Internet revolution. They are dependent to a great extent on free, unrestricted, taxpayer-funded government information, which covers everything from economics to statistics to agriculture to the weather,” Weiss noted in a research paper.

The case for engaging the private sector in open governance goes beyond performance and technical considerations. Introducing transparency, accountability, and trust into government-business relations will transform the business environment and the investment climate. It can promote open public budgeting, clean up procurement, and level the playing field for small businesses.

Thomas Jefferson once said that information is the currency of a democracy. Today that is especially true where government information can pay big dividends for the economy. That’s why many in the business community join FOG in pushing for transparency and openness in government. We welcome all businesses and citizens in New Mexico to join us in this data frontier.

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Susan Boe is executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. FOG is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is the state’s leading advocate for transparency. Visit www.nmfog.org.

Santa Fe, NM – December 2, 2014 – Santa Fe County is currently seeking members of the general public who are interested in serving on a Community Planning Committee for each of the 13 community planning areas, previously established in Santa Fe County (see list below). Membership should include: residents, property owners, business owners, and community groups of the community planning areas. Once committees are established additional individuals are encouraged to attend and provide input at the planning committee meetings.

Each of the Planning Committees will meet periodically and the work involved will mostly likely run from February through August of 2015 on an “as-needed” basis. Planning Committees will be asked to meet and work with County staff on amending community plans, recommending base zoning, and developing an overlay community district—all within their respective community planning areas, to ensure consistency with the Sustainable Growth Management Plan (SGMP) and the Sustainable Land Development Code(SLDC).

A general “kickoff” of the process for all 13 Planning Committees will be scheduled by the County to take place in February 2015. At that meeting further detail will be provided in the form of general information, timelines, templates and scopes of work.

List of Planning Committee Areas:
• Agua Fria Community Planning District
• Community College District (CCD)
• El Valle de Arroyo Seco Plan Area and Highway Corridor District
• La Cienega/La Cieneguilla Community Plan District
• Los Cerrillos Community Plan District
• Madrid Community Plan District
• Pojoaque Valley Community Plan District
• San Marcos Community Plan District
• San Pedro Community Plan District
• US 285 South Highway Corridor District
• Tesuque Community Plan District
• Galisteo Community Plan District
• Tres Arroyos del Poniente Community Plan District
Interested individuals should submit a brief online application through the County (link below) or by sending the attached application to:
Santa Fe County Planning Division Office
Attn: Robert Griego
102 Grant Ave., Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-0276
Applications are also available at the County satellite offices, senior centers or at the County Administrative Building in the Planning Division Office You must complete a Financial Disclosure 2015 form which can be uploaded as part of the online application or picked up the locations previously listed.
For more information please contact Robert Griego by email at: rgriego@santafecountynm.gov or by telephone at: 505-986-6215
Link to the online application and more information are found at www.santafecountynm.gov/growth_management/planning/santa_fe_county_planning_committee
Application Deadline is Monday, January 5, 2015