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The Most Pressing Issue of the Day

New Mexico is entering full economic crisis mode. We’re facing a half a billion dollar budget shortfall that in all likelihood will continue to worsen through 2011. Jobs are disappearing in our capital city at an ever increasing rate (subscription):

“Overall, the Santa Fe job market has stagnated in recent months, with only five of the area’s 12 (industry categories) adding jobs,” said the report, released last week.

Santa Fe lost 300 jobs at area hotels and restaurants in November, the report states.

Occupancy rates for Santa Fe hotels have been crashing over the past three months.

Hotel operators have acknowledged there have been layoffs in recent weeks. In November, only about 44 percent of hotel rooms were filled, down from 53 percent for the same month in 2007. It was the first time the average occupancy rate had dropped below 50 percent in 10 months.

And, the job picture for the state as a whole is not much better:

According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in New Mexico rose by more than one third — from 31,000 to 41,700 persons — between November 2007 and November 2008.

The state’s unemployment rate rose from 3.3 percent to 4.3 percent over the same time period. New Mexico lost 3,700 manufacturing jobs, reflecting layoffs at Intel, Eclipse Aviation and TMC in Roswell, among other staff reductions. Construction jobs fell by 2,500 over the past year.

But, it looks like at least one legislator has decided that there are more pressing issues to deal with the then the looming half a billion dollar budgetary crisis and ever shrinking job market. After her last campaign, Representative Mimi Stewart has come to the conclusion that the most pressing issue of the day to is the need to abolish the electoral college:

An Albuquerque lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would align New Mexico with several other states that are seeking to do away with the electoral college system for presidential elections.

Four states — Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey — have already approved bills calling for a system that would use the national popular vote to determine who’s elected president.

Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, who plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to do likewise, said she’s heard repeated gripes from constituents who dislike the current system.

“It’s a fairness issue,” Stewart said Monday in a telephone interview.

“Mathematically, 11 states could currently choose who’s elected (president). I think people are tired of the electoral college.”

It’s good in these times of need that we have legislators who understand our priorities.