Monday, October 31, 2005
New Mexico's Treasure; Beyond Dreams; Can It Be A Turning Point? Plus: The New Treasurer; To Be Fenced In? And: A Political Video Favorite
If money alone could solve the deep-seated social and cultural problems that put New Mexico at or near the bottom of just about every possible national ranking, surely we should be close to climbing out of the cellar. The stunning, no, the shocking, amounts of money flowing into state coffers from the oil and gas price explosion and the resulting royalties are enough to satisfy the wish list of even the most big spending liberal and the tax cutting dreams of even the most ardent Republican.
The surplus for the budget year starting next July is now put at nearly $700 million. But budget insiders tell me it is very possible it could actually be closer to $1 billion! That's on top of the current fiscal year surplus of over $800 million! Is this finally the answer to our generations old problems of child poverty, child abuse, poor education, low-wage jobs, domestic violence, sky high drug addiction and drunkenness and low worker productivity that has saddled us with our ignominious reputation? The optimists say it could be. The pessimists say the politicos don't know where to begin.
"A lot of this money should be returned to taxpayers, but say you returned a third. That could still leave you $700 million and even more if energy prices stay high in 06'. The potential to do great things is there," said one state government veteran.
Others say government programs as presently constituted are simply not adequate to handle additional inflows of money and if given it, it will go down to the drain and leave us right where we started.
"The problem in New Mexico is that there are so many people desperate for jobs, that government programs often become jobs programs, not problem solving agencies," analyzed an insider.
Big Bill has given tax cuts to the well-off that have placated the R's. Now, he has resources available to tackle problems that other governors can only dream of. Can he and does he want to father big ideas? If so, can he execute them with accountability the GOP will rightfully demand? Or will other ambitions prevail on him? Can these unfathomable surpluses be the stepping stone for a future where New Mexicans will look back with nostalgia at the pathetic social conditions that haunted their ancestors?
Is this New Mexico's last, best chance?
TREADING ON THE TREASURER?
Big Bill appointed another of those big, unwieldy committees to preside over a brief search for a new state treasurer who he will appoint to fill out the term of federally-indicted Robert Vigil who resigned last week. The committee will be co-chaired by Kim Sanchez Rael, a member of the State Board of Finance and wife of ABQ politico and veteran bureaucrat Lawrence Rael. He also said the panel should decide if it is best that the new Treasurer not seek election to a four year term next year. But who elected the panel to make that decision? Asked one politico protective of power not already in the Guv's hands.
"Whether the next Treasurer runs for the position or not should be of no concern to the Governor or his panel. In fact, a Treasurer who agrees not to run could be seen as less accountable to the people. The Governor needs to get a qualified replacement and stop worrying about the politics. It is not his place to set conditions, voluntary or otherwise, on the Treasurer's political plans. It is an elected position and this scandal has not changed that," declared a Santa Fe wall-leaner.
APPOINT THE TREASURER?
Interestingly, Big Bill has backed off his earlier plan to push legislation to have the Treasurer appointed rather than elected. It's probably a non-starter. It would place more power with the governor in an era when the chief executive's muscle is larger than ever because of his ability to focus the public on his agenda via the media. Also, Hispanics could be the deciding factor. Since statehood, they have been protective of the right to elect statewide officials.
Big Bill does have a legislative package that will provide for succession at the office and also some anti-corruption measures that are long overdue. Former Attorney General Paul Bardacke has floated the idea of paying the Treasurer more for overseeing billions of dollars. He currently makes $85,000. Would paying say $150,000 a year attract a better quality candidate? It may be worth a try.
Here's one circulating on the Net that even though it pokes fun at our sometimes speech-impaired Prez could apply to a lot of our politicos, including the D's. Enjoy the video.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2005
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