Lobbyist: Health care hot topic for 2008

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

A lobbyist for the Roosevelt County Commissioners believes health care will be at the forefront of next year’s 30-day legislative session.

Mike Miller of Portales told commissioners Tuesday indigent funds and health care reform are possibly the biggest things to watch out for in 2008, but he is doubtful lawmakers could tackle them next year without a special session.

Miller said last year, a measure that would have the state scooping up indigent funds from county governments and redistributing the monies didn’t get far. He said while there are lots of problems with the measure to overcome, he predicted it would be back and if something was passed it could have a major impact on indigent fund distribution in Roosevelt County.

“I can say that the local hospitals I represent, as well as the county, are not in favor of this,” Miller said. “The issue is going to be keeping locally generated taxes under local control.”

Miller also said there are four health reform plans proposed, including one by Gov. Bill Richardson. Miller said Richardson’s plan would call for combining all of the state’s risk pools.

“No matter which of these plans (might) pass, it would impact your budget,” Miller said. “They all call for some type of universal health care.

Miller also reported that GRIP I (Richardson’s Investment Plan) is still half-a-billion dollars short. He said various tax proposals, including an additional gas tax, are being discussed in Santa Fe.

He said with oil and gas revenue still soaring, the upcoming session should still have a surplus, but many lawmakers he’s visited with paint a gloomy fiscal picture further out.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Kevin Spears of the District Attorney’s Office reported to commissioners that plans for new office space for the district attorney’s office were coming together. He said architect plans were nearly complete and the matter would soon be in the commissioners’ hands to request bids for construction.

Spears said the commissioners approved $150,000 in previous budgets toward renovating the office space at 205 S. Main, and an additional $180,000 was obtained through the state Legislature last year.

In other business, the commissioners:

• Approved a bid from Stephens Construction Ready Mix of Texico for hauling of road materials for the road department. Stephens was the sole bidder.

• Approved a memorandum of agreement with the town of Elida that will allow Roosevelt County to take advantage of $145,000 in legislatively appropriated detention funds. In exchange, the county would provide $50,000 that would be used for Elida’s match in its GRIP II street project.

• Heard a report on the downtown planning sessions from Portales City Manager Debi Lee. She urged commissioners to look at the plans and attend the community conclusions meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.