UP — Many in this country have developed a knee-jerk reaction to taxes, and some, unrealistically, think they should all be abolished. We believe there are things that should be funded communally and that are necessary for us to continue operating as a first-world nation. Good roads don't just help businesses — although any community that wants to grow and prosper must have a reliable infrastructure — they also allow tax-supported ambulance and police services to get to a home in time to do the most good. That's a basic safety issue. And with the budget cutting frenzy that has entranced state and federal lawmakers, many services and projects formerly supported at those levels will have to be paid for at the local level. County officials say the new tax is necessary because the New Mexico Legislature is phasing out state payments designed to make up revenue lost from tax exemptions for medicine and food. So, back to the point, we support the creation of the new tax. It will replace — penny for penny — a tax imposed to pay for improvements at San Juan Regional Medical Center that have been completed. We have not seen evidence of rampant waste in county operations and it appears that further cuts will begin to degrade the quality of life here. Efficiency is always desirable but we're concerned about killing good government with a thousand cuts.
DOWN — The attorney for a man accused in June of stealing about $400,000 worth of fuel from BHP Billiton is grasping at straws. The attorney for Juel Jordahl argued that his client should not face new charges after being convicted of misdemeanor larceny for the same conduct. The new charges, which are more serious, include racketeering, larceny and receiving stolen property, all second-degree felonies. The attorney argued that would constitute "double jeopardy," which the New Mexico Constitution prohibits. Chief Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw pointed out that it is common for additional — and different — charges to be filed as an investigation progresses. "I do not see the case being decided on that motion," he said. We hope the court sees it that way.
UP — We like the approach the Farmington Municipal School District's Board of Education is taking to account for water and electricity use. We have heard some dismissive attitudes about the benefits of energy efficiency. Part of the American mythos is having the freedom to enjoy our bounties to excess and some see that kind of efficiency as diminishing our greatness. We couldn't disagree more. The district's Board of Education approved a $1.26 million contract with a Dallas firm to do the analysis and recommend a plan. We like the "budget-neutral" description of the contract, which guarantees the savings will cover the cost of the program or the company will eat the difference. A company representative told board members that school districts can save as much as 30 percent on water and electric bills simply by changing behaviors. New equipment purchases, he said, could save up to 16 percent of those costs. Thirty percent would be a significant amount of money and that savings would extend into the foreseeable future. This is the kind of efficiency in government we should pursue with vigor.