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NM flunks corporate subsidy disclosure

—NEW MEXICO VOICES FOR CHILDREN

According to a major report released on November 15, New Mexico is among the states that do a dismal job of making information about economic development subsidies available to the public.

The report, “The State of State Disclosure: An Evaluation of Online Public Information about Economic Development Subsidies, Procurement Contracts, and Lobbying Activities,” was released by Good Jobs First, a Washington, DC-based policy group.

Out of a possible score of thirty-three on subsidy disclosure, New Mexico scored zero (or 0%). Iowa did best on this measure, with 82%. Economic development subsidies most often take the form of tax breaks and incentives. New Mexico scored better on disclosing procurement contracts (81%) and lobbying activities (61%).

“Transparency is extremely important for good government,” said Bill Jordan, Policy Director for New Mexico Voices for Children. “Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent and whether investments in economic development are paying off for New Mexico families,” he added. “Taxpayer money that’s invested in economic development must result in good paying jobs, affordable housing, and other things that directly benefit families and kids.”

Procurement contracts for goods or services purchased by the state are overseen by the State Purchasing Division. The report gave its website high marks for accessibility and consistency, but it lost points because the database is not searchable by vendor name.

Lobbying activity is overseen by the Secretary of State’s office. The report gave its website high marks because the data is current and goes back at least three years. But the issues on which lobbyists work are not disclosed.

The full report, as well as summaries and tables, can be found at www.goodjobsfirst.org/statedisclosure.cfm.

Udall hails passage of Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act

U.S. Representative Tom Udall, D-NM, made the following statement in support of legislation to reform the 1892 Mining Act. The bill, H.R. 2262, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act, passed the House in November by a vote of 244-166.

“The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act takes long overdue action to reform the 1872 Mining Act. That law, the General Mining Act of 1872, was written to encourage westward expansion and to generate the supply of minerals needed in our nation. Back in 1872, a charge of $5 an acre to mine hardrock minerals in remote areas of the undeveloped west was probably a pretty fair price. The fact that the price is still the same today is simply ludicrous.

“As a result, private companies, both domestic and foreign, have been able to profit handsomely by mining on public lands without the need to pay the American people any royalties or to even clean up the messes they leave behind. By some estimates, the antiquated 1872 Mining Act has allowed over $245 billion dollars worth of minerals to be extracted from more than 3.4 million acres of public lands without returning to the American people—the owners of those lands—a single cent in royalties. Today, we took a necessary step toward bringing this policy into the modern era.

“H.R. 2262, introduced by Representative Nick Rahall, the Chairman of the Natural Resources committee, requires mining companies to pay royalties to the American people for the minerals they mine from public lands and to properly reclaim lands damaged by mining. It also allows for the prohibition of mining on environmentally-sensitive lands, and it creates a fund to begin the clean-up of nearly a half million abandoned mine sites. I sincerely hope that the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act sees swift passage in the other chamber so we can send it to the President to be signed into law. Even though we’ve already waited 135 years to take action on this matter, time is truly of the essence. In 1872, hardrock mining mostly took place in the middle of vast undeveloped lands. Today, however, with over 375,000 mining claims spread throughout the rapidly developing west, some of our last pieces of unspoiled lands are threatened. According to the New York Times, many of those 375,000 claims are within five miles of eleven major national parks, including Death Valley and the Grand Canyon.

“Over 89,000 of those claims were staked in 2006, largely due to the renewed interest in nuclear energy and the concomitant increase in the price of uranium. In New Mexico alone, almost two thousand claims were staked in 2006. Many New Mexicans, most particularly members of the Navajo Nation, have already suffered devastating injuries from uranium mining in the past. H.R. 2262 will bring some much-needed balance to the use of our public lands and, in so doing, help protect the health of our citizens.”

Udall is a former member of the House Natural Resources Committee. Major hardrock minerals developed in the West include copper, silver, gold, lead, zinc, molybdenum, and uranium. The bill has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, where it awaits further action.

 

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