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By The Staff

UP thumb ... FISCALLY SOUND. Highlands University regents were told last week that, despite the expectations of budget cuts coming with an economic slowdown, the school is “fiscally strong in all respects.” And that’s on top of findings in a recent study that Highlands’ tuition and fees for undergraduate New Mexico residents are the lowest in the West (an 11-state region).

This comes on the heels of some great work by Highlands President James Fries, who took the helm a little more than a year ago after a disastrous Manny Aragon tenure followed by a calming Manuel Pacheco interim. Though Fries certainly didn’t accomplish all this by himself, he has been instrumental in stabilizing the university — as last week’s reports indicate.

DOWN thumb ... BRACE YOURSELVES. Coming out now, in this post-election climate, are projections that New Mexico state government will be hit with some serious revenue shortfalls as the result of declining energy prices and a weakening economy.

Tim Jennings, president pro tem of the Senate, has sent out a warning to expect a $500 million drop in state revenue — much higher than previously anticipated. Get ready for a painful ’09 legislative session; there won’t be much available for anything other than the basics in governmental operations.

DOWN thumb ... STARTING IN THE RED. While we try always to defer to the voters, it’s still mind boggling to us why northern New Mexico selected Jerome Block Jr. to represent their interests on the powerfully important Public Regulation Commission. Our exasperation is furthered with news out of Santa Fe that Block is paying $21,700 in penalties for lying during the campaign about how he spent public funds.

Fortunately for Block, the job he won pays generously — $90,000 annually — so he should be able to pay his bills.

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AND WE QUOTE

“The more here, the better we feel. We treat everyone like they are at home.”

— Helen Rivera, owner of El Sombrero Restaurant, on their annual free Thanksgiving dinner.