New Mexico

NM high court shuts down utility’s $5M rate hike to comply with ETA

The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled on a contentious matter concerning Southwestern Public Service Co.’s proposal to impose an additional charge on its customers, aiming to garner over $5 million in a span of three years. 

This proposed charge, known as a rate rider, was intended to offset the costs associated with augmenting the utility’s renewable energy output as a shift from traditional fossil fuel sources, mandated by the state’s Green New Deal, also known as the Energy Transition Act (ETA).

In New Mexico, the fully Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham-appointed Public Regulation Commission (PRC) oversees electricity tariffs. In 2021, the Southwestern Public Service Co. approached the PRC with a request to introduce this rate rider, positioning it as a necessary step toward fulfilling the state’s mandate for increased renewable energy production. 

New Mexico’s legislative framework mandates a significant push toward so-called “renewable” energy, setting strict guidelines for utilities to follow.

However, the PRC turned down this request, citing a need for concrete evidence from Southwestern Public Service Co. regarding their specific plans to invest in or develop new renewable energy projects with the proceeds from the proposed rate hike.

The state’s highest court has now affirmed the PRC’s decision, providing clarity on the issue. The court’s judgment underscored that the legislation encouraging the shift toward renewable energy was designed to promote the actual development and acquisition of clean energy resources. 

The justices pointed out that the utility company’s proposal failed to demonstrate how it would contribute to expanding renewable energy infrastructure, thus falling short of the legislative intent behind financial incentives for a “clean” energy transition. 

With utilities unable to increase rates for costly new eco-leftist mandates, it is unclear what utilities will be forced to do if no rate hikes are granted due to the apparent steep requirements mandated by the Democrat-run state.

See what grade New Mexico gets for its tax burden

Each state in the U.S. has its unique approach to taxation, significantly influencing residents’ financial health. The increasing trend of remote work has further fueled the discussion around the impact of state taxes, as individuals are no longer bound to live near their workplaces.

To determine the tax efficiency across the U.S., MoneyGeek undertook a comprehensive study, leveraging data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Tax Foundation, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. This research culminated in a grading system ranging from “A” for the most tax-efficient states to “F” for those with the heaviest tax burdens, considering sales, income, and property taxes.

The findings revealed that Nevada stands out as the state with the highest tax efficiency, with residents facing an average tax bill of $2,949. In stark contrast, Illinois emerged as the least tax-efficient, where the average family tax bill soars to $12,472 annually.

The disparity in tax burdens is stark, with a typical middle-class family in Illinois shouldering $9,524 more in taxes annually compared to a family in Nevada.

The study also linked tax efficiency to population trends, noting that states with an “A” rating in tax-friendliness saw a population growth of 0.9%, while those rated “F” experienced negligible growth. Florida, in particular, enjoyed a substantial 2.1% population increase, the highest nationwide, coinciding with its “A” tax-friendliness rating. Conversely, New York, with a “D” rating, witnessed the most significant population decline at -0.8%.

New Mexico has a “C” rating, with the 20th-highest tax burden. MoneyGeek notes that the estimated taxes are $6,808, with a 7.1% tax burden.

In an in-depth look at the tax landscape, MoneyGeek’s analysis identified the ten most and least tax-friendly states. The study defined a typical middle-class family as a married couple with one dependent, earning the median national income and owning a median-valued home. This benchmark family found Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming, Tennessee, and Washington to be the most tax-efficient states. Notably, all “A”-rated states, except Arizona, benefit from having no state income tax, a trait shared by South Dakota and Texas, which both received a “B” rating. In these tax-friendly states, taxes account for merely 5% of a typical household’s income.

Conversely, the least tax-friendly states impose taxes that constitute 11% of a typical family’s income. Illinois, the lowest-ranked state, sees taxes consuming an astonishing 13% of household income. Most of the bottom ten states are situated in the Northeast or Midwest, with Oregon being the only exception.

PNM shareholders get some good news

Albuquerque-based PNM Resources, Inc., which is one of the New Mexico companies on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: PNM), has announced that shareholders will continue to receive the increased dividend payment of $0.3875, which was first instituted on February 16th. This enhancement from last year’s dividend positions the yield at 3.7%, aligning with the industry’s average. The continued enhanced dividend is payable on May 10, 2024, to shareholders of record at the close of business on April 26, 2024.

In Simply Wall Street’s December analysis of PNM Resources, it was noted, “PNM Resources’ Earnings Easily Cover The Distributions.” Despite the appealing dividend yield, it’s crucial to evaluate the sustainability of such distributions. The previous dividend consumed a significant portion of the company’s free cash flows, compounded by a scarcity of free cash flows, which could indicate potential long-term risks.

According to the outlet, EPS growth is anticipated to be 74.3% over the coming year. If the dividend trajectory remains consistent with recent trends, Simply Wall Street estimates the payout ratio to be around 52%, which suggests a sustainable model.

Reviewing PNM Resources’ dividend history reveals a commendable consistency in payments. Since 2013, the annual dividend has grown from $0.66 to the current $1.55, marking an average annual increase of 8.9%. This steady growth, without significant reductions, enhances shareholder value.

However, investors hoping for continued dividend growth might need to temper their expectations. Despite the company’s earnings growing at 11% per year over the past five years, a high payout ratio could potentially limit future growth opportunities.

In conclusion, while the increase in PNM Resources’ dividend is welcome, investors should proceed with caution. The stability of past payments is a positive sign, yet the high payout ratio raises concerns about future growth and sustainability. 

The latest PNM stock traded at $36.70 per share as of 8:00 p.m. on Sunday evening. Year-over-year, PNM Resources fell from a stock price of $48.66, possibly due to the international company Avangrid backing out of a merger with the company. 

This article is not meant to provide investing advice but rather to report on PNM’s newly announced dividend.

Officer Justin Hare’s murder suspect apprehended in ABQ

Early on the morning of Sunday, March 17, 2024, we shared the news that Jaremy Smith, the individual accused of fatally shooting New Mexico State Police Officer Justin Hare and being a key figure in the investigation into the death of Phonesia Machado-Fore, a paramedic from South Carolina, was apprehended.

Sources, who chose to remain anonymous, have indicated that Smith was wounded by gunfire from deputies in Bernalillo County, per ABQ Raw. Although the New Mexico State Police were observed escorting the ambulance headed to UNMH, the specifics of Smith’s current health status remain undisclosed.

The vicinity of Anderson Hill and Unser is presently swarmed by law enforcement, leading to traffic advisories for motorists to steer clear of this area.

In a subsequent update at 9:30 AM, the New Mexico State Police confirmed that Jaremy Smith was captured following a car chase that culminated in an exchange of gunfire with deputies from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office.

The Multi-Agency Task Force has launched an inquiry into the incident involving the deputies’ use of firearms. The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that none of their deputies sustained injuries during the incident.

Manhunt continues for murderer of NM State Police Officer Justin Hare

The New Mexico State Police continue to be in active pursuit to capture a suspect responsible for the death of one of their own. The individual in question, 32-year-old Jaremy Smith from South Carolina, is accused of fatally shooting Officer Justin Hare. The incident occurred on Interstate 40 near the 318-mile marker early in the morning around 5:30 a.m. last Friday. According to reports, Smith had stopped on the highway due to a flat tire and was attempting to wave down passing vehicles when Officer Hare arrived at the scene and positioned his patrol car behind Smith’s vehicle.

During a press conference held on Saturday, Chief Troy Weisler of the New Mexico State Police detailed the events leading up to the tragic shooting. He explained that Smith engaged Officer Hare in a brief conversation at the passenger side of the police vehicle under the guise of needing assistance with the tire, only to suddenly draw a firearm and shoot the officer. Smith then proceeded to the driver’s side, shot Hare once more, and forcibly moved him into the passenger seat before fleeing the scene in the officer’s vehicle. The stolen police car was found abandoned shortly thereafter, with Smith still at large and deemed extremely dangerous.

Chief Weisler, visibly moved, spoke of Officer Hare’s final act of kindness, “On a cold, dark, and windy morning, he offered help to a person he thought was in need,” highlighting the cruel irony that Hare’s last words on earth were ones of assistance to the very individual who would take his life.

It has also come to light that Smith was driving a BMW that belonged to Phonesia Machado-Fore, a paramedic who was later discovered deceased in Dillon County, South Carolina. An investigation into her death is underway, with an autopsy planned for the upcoming Monday.

Chief Weisler further noted Smith’s extensive criminal record in South Carolina, which spans over a decade and includes both property and violent offenses. He emphasized the profound loss felt by the state police, marking the third officer to be killed in the line of duty within the last nine months—a stark contrast to the preceding 30 years without such an incident. Weisler expressed a fervent desire for such violence to end, mourning the loss of Officers Ferguson, Hernandez, and now, Hare, all of whom were “violently murdered in cold blood.”

As the police community mourns, they also stand resolute in their commitment to justice for Officer Hare, with Weisler firmly stating, “Jaremy Smith, we are coming for you.” Hare’s passing leaves behind a grieving girlfriend and two young children, a poignant reminder of the human toll of such senseless acts of violence.

NM residents ranked most federally dependent in the entire country: Study

According to WalletHub, New Mexico residents are ranked the most federally dependent, and the state at large is ranked the second-most federally dependent state in the union, only beaten by Alaska.

New Mexico’s federal dependence score was 76.70 out of 100, while Alaska’s was 89.52. 

WalletHub notes, “New Mexico is the second-most federally dependent state, in large part because it receives a huge amount of federal funding compared to the taxes that residents pay. For every $1 paid in taxes, New Mexico gets $3.26 in federal funding. Around half of the other states get less than $1 in federal funding for every tax dollar.”

“Federal funding makes up a large share of New Mexico’s revenue as well, at around 47%, and more than 3.5% of the Land of Enchantment’s workforce is employed by the federal government. Both of these rates are among the highest in the country, proving that New Mexico’s economy owes a lot to the federal government,” the study continued.

WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe noted, “Regardless of whether the distribution of federal funds is fair or not, living in one of the most federally dependent states can be beneficial for residents. For every dollar residents of the top states pay in taxes, they get several dollars back in federal funding, which often leads to higher-quality infrastructure, education, public health and more.”

However, Happe’s analysis shows that is not the case in New Mexico, which despite the incredible government subsidies, is ranked near the bottom of every economic, health care, well-being, and safety state ranking. New Mexico also had the 46th lowest gross domestic product in the entire country, per WalletHub.

Suspect still on the lam after killing NM State Police Officer Justin Hare

On Friday morning, New Mexico when State Police Officer Justin Hare, 35, was fatally shot in eastern New Mexico. The incident occurred along Interstate 40, near mile marker 320, not far from Tucumcari. 

Officer Hare was conducting a welfare check related to a vehicle stopped on the highway’s shoulder when the situation escalated, leading to the suspect commandeering the police vehicle, which subsequently crashed.

Authorities are actively searching for the suspect, who was last spotted wearing a brown hoodie and jacket. The New Mexico State Police have released an image of the suspect and are urging anyone with information regarding his whereabouts to come forward.

The suspected murderer has been identified as Jeremy Smith of Marion, South Carolina, per the New Mexico State Police.

The area where the suspect was last seen is between Montoya and Newkirk, New Mexico, near mile marker 304 on Interstate 40. The search for the suspect is ongoing, with multiple law enforcement agencies involved.

This heartbreaking event marks the second loss of a New Mexico State Police officer in the line of duty within the past four years, following the death of Officer Darian Jarrott in 2021.

In 2023, Alamogordo Police Officer Anthony Ferguson was murdered by a felon who was released despite pending charges of brandishing a firearm on another law enforcement officer. 

NM AG Torrez joins other Dem states in attempt to nuke First Amendment rights

In a major legal battle that has drawn national attention, 23 Democrat states, along with the District of Columbia, have filed amicus briefs in favor of the Biden regime in the Supreme Court case Murthy, et al v. Missouri, et al. Some have termed this case as the “most important free speech case in a generation,” and it is set to be heard by the Supreme Court soon.

The states supporting the administration assert their interest in collaborating with tech companies to promote responsible public behavior and counter alleged “disinformation” and online predatory activities, which attempt to gut First Amendment rights. Their stance suggests a belief in the government’s authority to regulate and potentially censor certain forms of speech.

New Mexico’s Attorney General Raúl Torrez and other far-left attorneys general and solicitor generals have signed the brief.

The other states advocating for this anti-First Amendment stance include New York, Colorado, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Vermont, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada.

On the other side of the debate, 16 states, including Montana, Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Tennessee, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Arizona Legislature, have filed a brief in support of free speech and the respondents in the case.

This legal confrontation stems from allegations against the Biden administration for purported First Amendment violations, particularly directing social media platforms to censor or remove content deemed objectionable by the government. The case involves several plaintiffs, including three doctors, a news website, a healthcare activist, and two states, who claim their content was unfairly targeted and suppressed by these directives.

Star-studded blockbuster to film in New Mexico

New Mexico is set to become the backdrop for “Eddington,” an upcoming A24 film featuring a stellar cast including Academy Award winner Joaquin Phoenix, Golden Globe Award Winner Pedro Pascal, and two-time Academy Award winner Emma Stone. The New Mexico Film Office disclosed that the movie will be shot in various locations, including Albuquerque, Santa Fe County, and Truth or Consequences. This venture is expected to provide employment for more than 300 locals.

Directed by College of Santa Fe alumnus Ari Aster, known for the A24 films Hereditary and Midsommar and produced under his Square Peg banner in collaboration with A24, “Eddington” boasts an impressive ensemble cast that also counts Yellowstone’s Luke Grimes, Elvis’ Golden Globe winner Austin Butler, and BAFTA Award winner Michael Ward among its ranks. Two-time Academy Award nominee Darius Khondji, renowned for his cinematography, is on board to lend his visual storytelling expertise to the film.

The storyline of “Eddington” centers around a New Mexican sheriff with lofty ambitions, though specific plot details remain under wraps. This project marks Aster’s inaugural feature film endeavor in New Mexico, although some cast members have previously worked within the state. Emma Stone, for example, was involved in a project in Española and Santa Fe in mid-2022.

Amber Dodson, the director of the New Mexico Film Office, highlighted the state’s allure for major film projects like “Eddington,” attributing the interest to the picturesque landscapes, skilled crews, and appealing film incentives. 

The movie’s production in locales such as Truth or Consequences is not just about utilizing the state’s scenery but also about weaving the essence of New Mexico into the narrative fabric of the film.

MLG regime cancels public hearing amid backlash to proposed state park fee hike

Amid widespread backlash from New Mexicans after Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s State Parks Division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) proposed over 100% price increases in state park fees, the division is canceling a scheduled April 1, 2024, hearing on the matter.

According to a study commissioned by the division and reported by KOAT & News, “The study shows proposed fees such as raising day-use per vehicle from $5 to $10; raising camping fees from $10 to $20 a night for New Mexico residents; electric service from $4 to $10 a night; water service for $10.” These proposed increases would cost over 100 percent more.

New Mexico House Republicans came out unanimously against the proposed fee increase, writing in a letter, “New Mexicans are among the most economically challenged Americans. Raising our fees to be consistent with the fees of neighboring states – which in some instances results in increases of 200% – fails to account for the vast differences in wealth of residents in our neighboring states, all of which have significantly fewer people living in poverty. The increased fees and new fees will make activities like camping, boating, and paddle sports unaffordable for many New Mexicans at a time when they are struggling to keep up with the significant inflation of recent years.”

EMNRD’s Field Operations Bureau Chief Jared Langenegger wrote in a Wednesday statement, “New Mexico State Parks, a Division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) is announcing the postponement of the public hearing on its proposed rule revisions scheduled for April 1, 2024.”

He noted, “This decision allows additional time to review and consider over 800 public comments and feedback received regarding the proposed rule amendments. State Parks The Division will continue to receive public comments on the proposed rule changes through March 29, 2024.” 

“State Parks The Division plans to review the public input received and revise the proposed rule changes in the coming months. Once the review and revision process is complete, recommendations will be presented through a rule revision process, which will include additional public meetings and another public comment period,” continued Langenegger.

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