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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MST


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says a statewide cut in gross receipts taxes will be on her agenda when the Legislature meets in January. She made the announcement during an economic development event Wednesday in Albuquerque. The first-term Democratic governor is running for reelection and has been battling criticism over her handling of the pandemic and economic fallout among businesses across the state. The proposal would trim New Mexico's gross receipts tax rate by 0.25%. The governor's office said the proposed reduction would save New Mexicans an estimated $145 million annually. Supporters also say it would help ease pyramiding that results from the state's tax policies.


LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say seven inmates in a northern New Mexico jail are charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the beating death of a fellow inmate regarded by other prisoners as a dangerous bully. The seven were charged Monday in the Nov. 1 killing of 40-year-old Eric Vigil, who was beaten in a cell in the San Miguel County Detention Center. Arrest affidavits said the staff discovered the gruesomely battered and unresponsive Vigil facedown on the floor after another inmate reported that an inmate had slipped and fallen. The affidavits said Vigil and other inmates had entered a cell where the beating lasted just 62 seconds.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's Supreme Court is considering whether state legislators should have a greater say in the spending more than $1 billion in federal pandemic aid. Arguments in the case were scheduled for Wednesday morning at the five-seat high court. A bipartisan list of state senators is challenging Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as she asserts authority over federal pandemic aid approved by President Joe Biden in March. Lujan Grisham is a Democrat and is running for reelection in 2022. She used the relief funds to replenish the state unemployment insurance trust, underwrite sweepstakes prizes for people who got vaccinated and prop up agriculture wages. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's Public Education Department is asking the Legislature for a $6.7 million budget increase, citing the need to address an ongoing lawsuit, absenteeism programs and management of federal funding. Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus told a key panel of lawmakers Tuesday that he needs at least 33 more employees in his department. He says staffing increases and other emerging needs require an increase in spending from $14.5 million to $21 million per year. Some $3 billion in state funding goes to school districts each year. New Mexico schools also received an additional $1 billion in pandemic relief funds this year.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico utility officials are touting millions of dollars in economic development benefits and customer savings if state regulators approve a multibillion-dollar merger with a subsidiary of global energy giant Iberdrola. Two executives with Public Service Co. of New Mexico testified Tuesday before a panel of legislators. They said the deal would result in 150 new jobs and a better credit rating for financing $4 billion in future investments. A hearing examiner has recommended that the merger as proposed be rejected by the Public Regulation Commission. A final decision is pending. Several lawmakers raised questions about reliability and customer service.


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — States will soon be flooded with federal money they can use to repair, improve or remove thousands of aging dams across the U.S. The funding is included in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden. Though it pales in comparison to the amounts earmarked for roads and high-speed internet, the roughly $3 billion for dam-related programs is far more than they have been getting. One grant program for repairs at high-hazard dams had been receiving $10 million to $12 million each of the past few years. The infrastructure bill designates $585 million for that program. The U.S. has more than 90,000 dams.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Bill Richardson's success in helping secure the release of journalist Danny Fenster from a Myanmar prison is the latest demonstration of the former New Mexico governor's knack for flying into some the most closed societies on earth and persuading those in charge to do Washington a favor. From Iraq to Sudan to North Korea, Richardson has repeatedly proven willing to meet with dictators, military juntas and reclusive strongmen. His missions have often come with the blessing of Democratic presidents, though their public endorsement is rarer. Striking that balance allows foreign officials to believe they are talking to someone who can be an informal conduit to top U.S. officials.