River of Dreams
Catron County author Uncle River's alternate universes

Building Multiculturalism
Casa de la Cultura President Mar’a Eugenia Trillo

Another Side of the Story
Remembering a slain family, 50 years after the In Cold Blood murders

Hiking How-To
Here's how Jerry packs and prepares for Apacheria outings

Rabbit Moon
What did the ancient Mimbres people see in the moon?

Fellow Travelers
November brings flocks of migrating Sandhill Cranes to New Mexico

Underground Silver City
2009 Writing Contest Winner

Columns and Departments
Editor's Note
Desert Diary

Lincoln: Self-Made President
Apache Homeland Cafe's Last Chance?
The Robots are Coming
La Esperanca Vineyard & Winery
Tumbleweeds Top 10

Business Exposure
The Starry Dome
Ramblin' Outdoors
40 Days & 40 Nights
The To-Do List
Guides to Go
Henry Lightcap's Journal
Continental Divide

Special Section
Arts Exposure

Arts News
Gallery Guide

Body, Mind & Spirit
Deaf Community
Qi Gong

Red or Green
Dining Guide
Table Talk

About the cover

  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   November 2009


Enchanting the Budget

Do you really trust the governor and legislature to fix the budget black hole they drove us into?

If you ever play the lottery, or what we at Chateau Lightcap like to call our "retirement plan," you know that the dude with the nose piercing at the neighborhood Quick Sak won't sell a lottery ticket to anyone under 18. This really isn't due to some uncommon concern for the moral purity of our youth as much as it is the fact Enchanthat kids are stupid with money. If it weren't for kids with cash, there would be no Britney Spears albums, skateboard shops or $50 T-shirts. For the precise same reason, we should really quit sending elected officials to Santa Fe to make grown-up decisions with our money.

They way I understand New Mexico's legislative process, the governor and a large pack of feral legislators meet every year in Santa Fe to swill top-shelf liquor, posture for the media, and arrange for barrels of pork to be shipped back home. The pork-barrel shipping business has been boomin' in Santa Fe the last seven years since Big Bill Richardson rolled into town, packing his populist mandate and a big ballpoint to sign checks with. During his stay in Santa Fe thus far, Bill has ratcheted up the state budget from $3.8 billion to $6 billion. That would buy over 2 billion pounds of tasty bacon at my local grocery store, a lot of pork by any measure.

Here's the problem: The boys in the Roundhouse won the revenue lottery in the past few years, when the price of oil was climbing faster than a squirrel on Red Bull. The companies that pump oil and gas out of the Land of Enchantment pay a royalty to the state based on the market value of their product; thus, when gas hit $4 a gallon a couple of years ago, Santa Fe got in the business of opening checks — really big ones.

So the legislature went on a bender, buying all sorts of cool things like a commuter rail service for northern New Mexico and talking urinal cakes that told us not to drink and drive. They sent tax refund checks to New Mexicans, even the ones who didn't pay taxes. They even repealed taxes on groceries, bless their pea-pickin' hearts! Gravy flowed from every spigot and every citizen had a shiny pelt.

Whoops. Nobody knew that oil was a publicly traded commodity, apparently. When oil went from well over $100 a barrel to less than a Blake's LotaBurger, the revenue dried up — and nobody saw it coming. Going into October's special session, the state legislature had to come up with $660 million in accounts payable. I'm sure all of us regular Joes can relate to screwing up our household budget by 11%, so let's not waste time pointing fingers and burning politicians in effigy. Let's burn 'em for real.

No, there are laws against that sort of behavior, probably passed by flammable legislators long before this. Instead, we could look at ways to fix this mess and get our beautiful state back on the path of fiscal righteousness. Times like this call for us all to cowboy up and do what's necessary. That's why I'm proposing that each and every one of us New Mexicans — men, women, children, all 2 million of us — cough up our share of the tab. That comes to $330 each.

Now, we can waste time, pissin' and moanin' about it and wondering why our elected officials behaved like drunken sailors on leave, blowing money they never had, or we can just figure out ways to take care of our share of the deficit. Speaking for the Lightcap clan, we plan on having a weekly bake sale outside the local Mall-Wart retail depot, selling Rice Krispy squares and magic brownies. I've got two kids, so we have to net only about $21 a week between the three of us. Should take a year. This will be a good use of our free time, as it will prevent me from buying lottery tickets and beer, drinking myself into a depressed stupor over how much I pay in taxes every year. Plus, it keeps the kids off the soccer fields and sidewalks on the weekends, too.

Of course, the legislators could just pony up for a Ouija board and try to summon up the ghost of Ronald Reagan, the last fiscal conservative this country ever elected. Ronnie could turn things around in New Mexico in a few easy steps: Eliminate taxes for life for all businesses in New Mexico that have at least 50% of their employees in-state. Eliminate any capital gains taxes. Cut the top personal income tax bracket to 10%. This sure-fire recipe for economic revival is called trickle-down economics, people, and it can work as well now as when the Gipper had to clean up Carter's mess.

Oh, and plan next year's state budget based on last year's collections, not the other way around. Spend what you got, not what you hope to get, or we'll all wind up like Clark Griswold and his frozen turkey. Boom — problems solved, and all the legislators get to go home early and watch the playoffs. They should relax and let us grown-ups handle the serious stuff like budgets.

Henry Lightcap balances his books in Las Cruces.



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