Wednesday, May 07, 2008

State Cash Still Flowing: Could Help Bill's Health Plan, Plus: Hillary Hangs By Her Nails, And: Election Year Free Rides Highlighted 

The sky is not falling...yet. And that means--believe it or not--Big Bill's long-stalled health care reform plan lives. The Guv's numbers crunchers released an updated state money forecast Tuesday for the current fiscal year showing those sky-high gas prices that are tearing a hole in your wallet mean tax dollars from the NM oil and gas industry continue to pour into Santa Fe. That is blunting the effects of a slowing economy elsewhere.

However, Senate Finance Chairman John Arthur Smith isn't buying any rosy scenario for the next fiscal year that starts in July. "I do not forecast a pleasant year. These are challenging times. We've got a lot of big ticket items for the next fiscal year we are trying to address."

Smith says the state would need to increase spending by hundreds of millions of dollars if the Legislature and governor agreed to proposals for universal health care coverage, revamp the state's school finance system, shore up an ailing health care plan for government retirees and cover a highway funding shortfall.

Smith and Company will soon get a forecast for the next fiscal year from their staff. If oil and natural gas prices stay in the stratosphere and the new cash forecast is not markedly different from what we heard Tuesday, Smith is going to feel Fourth Floor heat to move on health care reform.

On that front, insiders report nine state senators, staff for the Legislature and the governor were meeting again last week on health care while Richardson continues to hammer out political strategy for a special session. When it comes to state finances this has been one of the luckiest governor's in modern history. Will the streak continue long enough for him to pass landmark legislation, not just a fig leaf? Stay tuned.


Late Tuesday, Hillary pulled out Indiana over Obama, but he landslided her in the North Carolina Dem prez contest. NBC's Tim Russert told the nation, it will be Obama winning the nomination. That's good news for Big Bill who has cast his lot with Obama. How long before Light Guv Denish, an ardent Hill backer, gets aboard the Barack Express?


Ed Tinsley went up on ABQ TV Tuesday, the first of the five GOP southern congressional contenders to do so, and none too soon for his itchy supporters who see rancher and retired banker Aubrey Dunn breathing down Tinsley's throat.

Tinsley, owner of the K-Bob's restaurant chain, came with a new spot that positions him as tough on sealing the border. The ad also splashes the slogan "Conservative Republican" across a corner of the screen. Dunn has attacked Tinsley for not being tough enough on illegal immigration when serving as president of the National Restaurant Association. In a piece of lit Dunn also labeled his rival "Liberal Ed Tinsley." This ad seems directed to counter those charges.

Dunn has gone negative in the mail and on the stump, not on TV. It appears we are in a game of chicken. Neither of the two leading contenders for the GOP nod appear to want to be first to do negative TV. Maybe they need to look at some Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson spots for inspiration. Meantime, Tinsley fans are hoping that former Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman will split the SE vote with Dunn, leaving Tinsley to claim the victory by outperforming in the remainder of the sprawling district.


A photo of you smiling with the Prez will go for $5,000 a pop when he sets down in ABQ May 27th for a fund-raiser for ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Darren White. A ducat (you can look that up, kids) for a general reception will set patrons back a thousand a piece. White will likely net at least several hundred thousand from the prez's visit, but risks souring swing voters who are through with Bush. That's why the visit is in May, not October. Where Bush will make his appearance has not been released.

Yes, White is opposed in the primary by State Sen. Joe Carraro and it is unusual for national and state R's to endorse in a contested primary. The endorsement highlights the division in the GOP which was evident when Allen Weh was challenged for the chairmanship last year by Earl Greer. For his part, Carraro has put up a giant billboard at ABQ's Big I, complete with smiling picture. At least he'll have something to show the grandkids.


Rue, Whitefield & Daniels
Here's a snap from photog Mark Bralley of three happy politicians. They all now have free rides to election or re-election. On the left, Sander Rue gets a free ride as David Pyne drops out of the GOP race for an ABQ West Side state Senate seat. No Dem is running so Rue will take the primary and then the general. Alligators report the lobbyists have already been seen swarming over the soon-to-be Senator.

Elizabeth Whitefield got lucky. The incumbent ABQ district court family judge was opposed by Metro Judge Frank Sedillo, but no more. Sedillo dropped out. There is no R running so Judge Elizabeth joins our free rider club. And then there's newly named NM Supreme Court Justice Charlie Daniels. No Dem challenged him in the primary and no R is running in November. Daniels will finish out the term of the late Pamela Minzner without giving the give and take of La Politica a second thought. That's the luxury of a free ride.

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