Archive for the ‘Santa Fe’ Category

Education Secretary Hanna Skandera met with members of the Chamber Board in August and gave an update on education priorities at the state level.

Intervention Before Retention

The goal of this initiative is to ensure that all students are reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade and prepared to learn.  This initiative ensures that all students, parents and teachers are given the tools necessary (early assessments and targeted interventions) to succeed in reading:

Supporting Struggling Schools & Rewarding Excellence

School grades were designed to identify and help struggling schools while highlighting successful schools. This system measures individual student growth over a three year period and the calculation model accounts for circumstances unique to each school. Graduation rates, and their improvement over time, are also factors.  By offering support to our struggling schools and rewarding schools that closing the achievement gap for their students, we are honoring our commitment to real accountability to achieve real results.

Rewarding and Championing Effective Teachers and Principals

Proposed legislation would align teacher advancement pathways within the three tier system to be based on effectiveness. Right now, advancement is based only on years of service and credentials, conflicting with New Mexico’s new evaluation system. Ensuring the two systems are aligned will not only better equip teachers for success, but also positively impact student achievement. Under the current binary evaluation system, a teacher either “meets competency” or does not and over 98% of teachers in New Mexico “meet competency”. This is not commensurate with our student achievement data. Studies have shown dramatic strides in closing the achievement gap when students are taught by highly effective teachers.

Above the Line vs. Below the Line

43% of the state’s budget goes to K-12 education and New Mexicans deserve to see a better return on their investment. The goal is to invest taxpayer dollars “below the line” on proven reforms that will yield measurable results for spending accountability.

 

 

 

Labs in the balance: Northern NM

already feeling impact of LANL cuts

Reporter- New Mexico Business Weekly

While the impact of looming federal budget cuts on New Mexico’s economy is still a question mark, a look at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s situation offers a glimpse of what federal budget cuts can bring.

With its $2.25 billion budget, LANL is the economic driver of northern New Mexico. It had a $300 million budget cut in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. That led the lab to reduce its staff by nearly 700 regular and contract employees, and caused ripple effects in the area’s economy.

The lab’s reduced budget was a result of the Obama administration’s effort to cut costs across various programs, said Kevin Holsapple, director of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corp.

For every lab worker lost, private contractors and subcontractors that do business with the lab shed one employee, according to people familiar with the situation. Some contractors, especially those that do environmental remediation work, have laid off between 30 and 80 percent of their workforce, area business leaders said.

Los Alamos County government has cut its budget by 10 percent, or $5.5 million, this fiscal year. The county has not had to lay off people, but it might if federal budget cuts known as sequestration take effect as planned beginning Jan. 2, 2013. Those across-the-board federal budget cuts are supposed to result in $2.2 trillion in reduced overall federal spending by 2021. New Mexico, with its heavy dependence on federal spending, could suffer more than other states, experts said.

“We expect a flat budget at best for 2013, but we are trying to take action so we are positioned to deal with that uncertainty,” said lab spokesman Fred deSousa. “There is a council of senior lab management that goes through every new hire and every purchase of above $100,000.”

He added that the lab couldn’t say more because “it’s hypothetical to talk about any specifics.”

Employees laid off from LANL and its contractors spend less money, and that ripples through the economy.

“People don’t go to restaurants, and they don’t go shopping,” said Los Alamos County Councilor Sharon Stover.

Liddie Martinez, community and economic development director for SOC Los Alamos, a firm that provides security services to the lab, said her company is reducing its staff of 340 by 31 employees because of this year’s budget cuts.

“The employees have been notified, and we are trying to have a voluntary separation deal approved” by the National Nuclear Safety Administration, one of the federal agencies that oversees the lab’s operations, said Martinez, a member of the executive committee of a consortium of 30 LANL contractors that is challenging proposed cuts to the sprawling laboratory. Several members of the consortium and area business and political leaders recently went to Washington, D.C. to lobby New Mexico’s congressional delegation on behalf of LANL and against sequestration cuts.

“All of the major contractors seem to have been fairly impacted,” said Jeff Lunsford, area general manager for Technology Integration Group, a San Diego-based company that provides computer hardware and services to LANL. Lunsford is vice chair of the LANL contractors’ consortium.

“One company indicated that it had gone from 150 employees to 30, and they were struggling with how to keep even those 30 employed,” Lunsford said. “It feels like the job losses for the subcontractors are one-to-one, and that’s why with sequestration, if it happens, it will be much worse.”

Lunsford said TIG has yet to be affected by this year’s budget cuts.

Kathy Keith, executive director of the Regional Development Corp., a nonprofit economic development organization in Española, said sequestration cuts could cost LANL hundreds more jobs.

“Our concern about sequestration is that it requires 10 percent across-the-board cuts. For every $1 million they lose in a budget cut, it takes an FTE with it. Los Alamos has a $2.2 billion budget this year, so a 10 percent across-the-board cut would mean an additional $220 million,” Keith said. “At least 50 percent of the workforce lives outside Los Alamos County, which means there is an economic impact to all of us.”

Simon Brackley, president and CEO of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, said sequestration cuts at LANL could do serious harm to the area’s economy.

“Northern New Mexico’s economy is completely linked to the health of LANL and to the funding that goes to the lab. That money not only pays the people who work there, but also the suppliers and the security folks, which are local small businesses, many of which depend completely on their contract with the labs,” Brackley said.

“In Santa Fe, our economy has three legs; government, LANL and tourism. If we lose one of the three legs of the stool, we will be in serious difficulty up here.”

Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce – Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce

Rail Runner Position Paper

Background

In 2003 the New Mexico legislature and the Governor passed a $1.4 billion dollar transportation package called GRIP which was to be funded primarily by bonds. Over 1 billion dollars in the package was for roads that benefited cities throughout the state and $450 million was for capital to build the commuter rail component subsequently called the Rail Runner. The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce supported the GRIP package and most of the recommended financing mechanisms recommended at the time.  The Regional Transit District (RTD’s), the legislature and the office of the Governor negotiated and reached a verbal agreement on how the operations of the commuter rail would be funded.  It was verbally agreed by all parties that 75% of the operations for the commuter rail component would be funded from the four governments (Bernalillo, Sandoval, Valencia, Santa Fe County) through the RTD’s by a required election that would propose a 1/8 cent GRT tax. Additionally, and because it was a state-initiated project, 25% was committed for operations from the state as a part of the agreement.   A vote of the people in the four counties occurred in an election held in 2008.  The issue was passed by a majority of the people for both the commuter rail project and for the tax to fund it.

The election secured the RTD’s commitment for 75% of operations funding, but the 25% (or about $6 million) of state funding was never permanently secured.  The state’s commitment was instead funded by federal funds.  The lack of a permanent funding mechanism  at the state level and  to some extent, the poor economy has created the operations deficit problem for the Rail Runner. In an attempt to cut costs in the short term, the Rio Metro RTD voted on a 6-5 vote to end weekend service beginning mid-August. However, for the long term, the Rail Runner is facing a $1.2 million dollar operations deficit in FY 2012. The state is obligated to pay the $450 million over the next 16 years regardless of whether the Rail Runner is operational or not, as well as  the bond obligation payments for the larger road projects which was included in the GRIP package.  The state must currently use the federal dollars it receives to pay off the bonds which leaves few resources to maintain and expand roads in New Mexico.  Finally, unlike many other states, New Mexico does not have a long-term sustainable transportation fund dedicated to transportation systems which further aggravates the present problem.

Board Position

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce believe that a comprehensive transportation system is an economic development necessity. A comprehensive transportation system which efficiently moves both people and product is essential to creating a vibrant and competitive city and state. The Chambers have conducted several benchmarking trips to cities which have been successful at creating a comprehensive transportation system. All of those systems combine roads, commuter rail, light rail and bus systems in a synchronized plan which is designed to efficiently move people and product. None of those systems, roads included, can operate self sufficiently; all transportation systems need financial support from the people in the form of taxation, fares and in some places, toll charges.

The decision to end weekend service by the Rio Metro RTD , while bringing  the issue to a head, was nonetheless surprising and, we believe premature.  The Governor’s office should have been consulted and been a part of the debate at some level prior to any action being taken on a project which from the beginning has been a partnership between the local governments and the state.

The decision by the previous administration to use federal stimulus dollars and decline- for 4 years- to identify a permanent funding source ($6 million) to fulfill the state’s commitment was a mistake.

The Chambers urge all parties back to the table to creatively solve the dilemma. The investment has been made for the Rail Runner (and all other GRIP projects); the debt for it is still an obligation and tax revenue from the election result continues to come in for the project. We should not nickel and dime this project but solutions should recognize the problems, including, mistakes of the past. In the short run, questions like: How can we make this better? More  effective? More fair? … should  be answered. And then, the bigger problem should be solved – by all of us – how New Mexico can join the many other states who recognize transportation (roads and transit) as an important economic development tool and have created a long-term sustainable fund to pay for it.

 

The New Mexican Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 – 11/17/09

I have recently had a number of conversations about positions taken by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. From these conversations it has become apparent to me that there are a number of misapprehensions about chambers.

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce is an independent nonprofit organization with around 1,000 local member businesses and a board of 21 directors representing hospitality, arts, manufacturing, media, finance, real estate, restaurant, insurance and other industries.

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce has no affiliation with the U.S. Chamber. Any position taken by the Santa Fe Chamber is approved by the board of directors. At no time does the Santa Fe Chamber take direction from the U.S. Chamber. In fact, the Santa Fe Chamber rarely, if ever, takes positions on national issues.

The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce is committed to creating local jobs and prosperity for all Santa Feans.