Thursday, September 22, 2005

Our National Black Eye; What will it Cost? Plus: Special Session Defended: "Not Gimmicky," But Is It Penny Ante? And: Smarty Marty Is Back 

In the wave of news in the treasurer scandal not much has been made of the fact that the sleazy accusations are making their way into media coast-to-coast, giving our Enchanted Land a big black eye and, media experts agree, undermining Big Bill's efforts to lure business to the state. Remember that billboard featuring the Guv in New York's Times Square? Well, a couple of days of on-the-take treasurer stories in the papers and you are creating memories of a much different sort.

"New Mexico's business climate is going to take a hit for this. The longer Treasurer Vigil refuses to step aside, the worse it will be," commented one business type.

It's been historically difficult to lure major firms here because of the lack of faith in the education system and the workforce. Add tales of million dollar kickbacks and no amount of ad agency spin can compete.

"The drumbeat of unethical conduct by public officials in New Mexico continues nonstop. At the same time, you don't see much in the way of big companies locating here or expanding. Is there a connection? The governor campaigned on pulling off some major business coups. He is still working for them. This is not going to help bring in that business or give him a success to take on the campaign trail," said our biz analyst.


Meanwhile, Treasurer Robert Vigil remains a prominent thorn in the side of Big Bill and every other elected Democrat but he is taking his time about stepping aside--resignation seems remote--from his duties handling billions of tax dollars. "I am convinced he will step aside before the special legislative session (Oct. 5) but if he doesn't there will be a bill to impeach. The surprise may be that it may come from the Democrats. They cannot allow the Republicans to put them on the defensive on this," offered a Santa Fe politico.

Of course, when everyone expects something to happen, look out. "Maybe Robert sees holding his position as potential power in a plea bargain," mused another insider following the action.

Whatever the case, the national black eye is getting larger by the hour as Wall Street and Main Street wonder just how our little territory conducts its most vital affairs.

Commissioner Marks
There was no shortage of e-mail disagreeing with my assessment yesterday that in light of the treasurer scandal a special legislative session seemed "gimmicky." In other words, it was being used to get the scandal off the front pages. But Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks was one of several defending Big Bill's call.

"The session is not "gimmicky and irrelevant" for low income families who are fretting about how they will pay their heating bill this winter. Many are on "budget billing" (which averages the projected bills for the coming year to get a fixed monthly amount), so this winter's expected 40%-50% cost increase has already started to hit them. Seniors living off of a monthly Social Security check and other people of limited means can't wait until February for relief, plus they aren't in a position to benefit from a general tax cut" argued Marks.

If not gimmicky, the critics newest angle is that it's 'penny ante.' These rebates the Governor is talking about will be just fifty or a hundred bucks for most of us. What's that? A tank full of gas? The state surplus is historic because of high energy prices, but his package is just $100 million. Why not give real relief across-the-board?" one lawmaker told us.

Others say natural gas prices have gone up even more since the first surplus estimates and that unless increased spending is already being projected when it's estimated again, the surplus could easily double from the current $300 million.

New Mexico's citizens may be some of the poorest in the nation, but it's government is anything but.


ABQ mayoral politics continues to plug along with the R's cutting cutting more negative radio ads. This time they call Mayor Marty "Smarty Marty" and blast him for the ABQPAC fundraising scandal. Smarty Marty was first heard back in the 93' mayoral campaign when former NM Governor Dave Cargo ran and earned the moniker of "Dirty Dave." A Chavez supporter, reacting to the renewal of the Smarty Marty label, gave us one for Brad Winter, 'Wishy-Washy Winter' seems to fit," he scolded.

And so it goes.

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