Monday, March 21, 2005
Move Over Drunken Sailors! Santa Fe Spending Spree Sets Records, Plus: A New Buzz Phrase:"Faith Based" Budget; It's The Big Blog Wrap On Session 05'
Move over all you drunken sailors and let Big Bill and the NM Legislature show you what a real spending spree is like. This one is not lubricated by Johnny Walker, but by New Mexico's plentiful oil gushers and the taxes they generate. For starters, you pass a $4.7 billion state budget that hikes spending by nearly 7%, even though inflation is running at well below half that level. Then, you pass a record-breaking $471 million in construction (pork) projects and top off the night with a $30 million "supplemental" and a tax cut at last call. Oh, the wonder of oil at over $50 bucks a barrel!
But one of our party animals, Dem State Senator and finance expert John Arthur Smith, played chaperone. "This is faith-based" budgeting, he exclaimed, while simultaneously praying that it will work. It's a phrase we could be hearing a lot of if the spending bash ends in a hangover.
But if that time comes you wonder who is positioned to yell "fire" in the crowded theater. Only three Republicans voted against the aggressive budget, having been placated with gobs of gubernatorial pork for their individual districts. New ABQ GOP State Rep Greg Payne was one of the three and was already throwing the towel in on the 06' Guv race. "We have nothing to run against the Governor on. We voted for just about everything he proposed," lamented Payne.
Well, not everything. They did slow the Guv down on the much hyped pre-kindergarten program, trimming it to a one year pilot program and $5 million. Hardly a victory for the Fourth Floor as they will have to come back next year and ask for renewal. Pre-k's chief patron, Light Guv Diane Denish, was popping champagne corks when it passed, but some of her friends feared it sets her up to be dragged down into the mud in the years ahead.
STRONG, OR STRONG-ARMED?
Other Alligators were entertained by the spectacle of Big Bill calling this a "strong" Legislature and how he had to "compromise" with them. It's true that, unlike past sessions, the Big Guy did not get nearly 100% of what he wanted, but coming in with 90% doesn't make for a "strong" Legislature. New Senate Majority leader Michael Sanchez made a play early in the game, but when it was all over he too was forced onto the Guv's bench. The two Dems who punched it out with the Guv the most, State Rep. Cervantes and State Sen. Jennings, won kudos, but did not embolden their brethren. When a Guv cries out to the top dogs: "You're fucking me," most part-time, citizen legislators are content to play Rover and roll over.
But there is a method to the Big Bill madness. He continues the money flood to get votes and also to try to perk up a manana economy that has put us at the bottom of just about every ranking known to man. He also showed he's a Guv who will bite the hand that feeds him, proposing an oil tax hike even though that industry has made possible the explosive spending spree. But legislators, perhaps grateful to OPEC and the oil gods, put that one to rest. Instead, the latest round of tax cuts will be funded by a delay in the previous round of tax cuts. Will someone please get me some smoke and mirrors?
DON'T BANK IT, SPEND IT
They did more than follow the money at the fabled Roundhouse, but not much that you will remember. There was that election reform bill that passed and will get the Dems out of the GOP line of fire. But the R's were a sight to behold as they claimed voter fraud was rampant but only came up with an example from 1992 and never did explain why the Republican U.S. Attorney here, who set up a task force on the issue, did not cite even one case of fraud for them.
But when it comes to frolicking in cash there are no parties anymore, just politicians. In GOP controlled Washington the money spigot flows nonstop. Ditto for Santa Fe where the R's are in the minority, but like the D's, are most definitely in it for the money.
That's not to say that disaster looms. But it does remind one of those go-go 1980's when the oil gusher first spurted with high priced Texas Tea only to crash in the years ahead leaving the state in a cash crunch. But for now we are all on the Big Bill faith-based budget plan. Hallelujah and pass the gravy!
THE FOLLY AWARDS
We want to thank State Senator John Grubesic for providing the annual Santa Fe Follies skit. He was boozing it up with a couple of Big Bill's aides at the Rio Chama bar next to the Capitol and later rolled his vehicle, ran into his house and refused to come out and admit that he was driving. Grubesic takes the First Prize Folly. Socorro judge Tom Fitch takes second for getting smashed on vodka and rolling his vehicle into a ditch while on his way to a Legislative hearing. Thanks for the memories fellas.
SHEA, WE HARDLY KNEW YE
This will be the last year that ABQ Tribune political reporter Shea Andersen gets to witness the follies. He's leaving the Trib and headed to Idaho for new adventures and for even better skiing. Andersen was a culture shocked northwesterner when he started here in 01'. Now he hangs out ay the ABQ Barelas coffee shop claiming to be half Hispanic. Shea, the blood of La Politica will now forever course through your veins. Of course, I'm not saying that's a good thing. Adios amigo.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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