The NM Legislature worked straight through with interim committees meeting monthly, often away from the Roundhouse. Several of those committees convened at UNM.
Today, the Tobacco Settlement Revenue Oversight Committee met at the UNM Cancer Center, a highly appropriate location since the HSC got $2.962 million in tobacco settlement funds in FY2014. The money helps support clinical care, education and research in Pediatric Oncology, UNM HSC Biomedical Research (genomics, biocomputing and environmental health research) and the NM Poison and Drug Informatics Center. Some instruction and general (I&G) funding for specialty education trauma and specialty education pediatrics is also included. Several of these program directors presented today.
Dr. Richard Larson, HSC Vice Chancellor for Research, related to the committee how the roughly $980,000 allocated to research often serves as seed funding that allows researchers to attract larger grants. For every one dollar invested, there is a return of approximately seven dollars. The reverse is also applies – there is a loss of seven dollars for every dollar of reduced allocation. Since 2009, there’s been a 50 percent reduction in tobacco settlement funds going to HSC programs and research.
Committee members were highly receptive and say they want their colleagues on the legislative finance committees to hear these presentations. They made no secret of the fact they thought the tobacco fund was not meant to be raided as it was last session when $10 million went to shore up the lottery scholarship fund.
Words of wisdom from Sen. Cisco McSorley (D-Albuquerque): “We don’t quite get it until we’ve heard it the fifth time.”
The committee rearranged its agenda to listen in on the 90-minute statewide conference call for behavioral health consumers with complaints about disruption in service during the current transition from local providers to Arizona companies. This issue is occupying the time and energy of most legislators these days.
The Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee will convene at UNM next Thursday and Friday at the STC Rotunda on South Campus. The Lottery Scholarship solvency work group will also be meeting next week. Encourage friends and neighbors to sign up for these updates. Go to govrel.unm.edu and sign up.