Thursday, October 22, 2009

Deal In Sight; Can They Bring It Home? State Watches Final Act Of Special Session, Plus: The Memo: Last Hours Of Mayor Marty Campaign 

  • 2:30 p.m. Update: First budget fix goes to Guv's desk. It cuts $117 million from $650 million shortfall. House and Senate continued debate on more budget savings today. Now in recess. House slated to come back between 5 and 6 p.m. Committee and caucus meetings until then.
The Democratic-controlled NM Legislature may have avoided political disaster late Wednesday by finally taking some action on the immense $650 million deficit facing the state this budget year, but the long-term fiscal imbroglio remains far from solved and legislators need to do more today if they are to justify this session to voters.
Both House and Senate picked some low lying fruit by transferring to the General Fund about $100 million of cash laying around in various accounts. Why the state has that kind of money sloshing around was questioned by Roswell GOP Senator "Lightning" Rod Adair, but no one was much interested in finding out. That lawmakers could agree on anything to solve the epic financial conundrum was greeted as a major breakthrough after nearly five days of a standstill.

Just how important was it to the Dems that the ball started to roll in Santa Fe and that we will likely see some more cuts today to remedy our fiscal ills? Well, within minutes of that $100 million bill winning approval, Light Guv and 2010 Guv candidate Diane Denish rushed out a news release hailing it like they had won the war in Afghanistan up there. Well, if you had former GOP ABQ Congresswoman Heather Wilson conducting a death watch over you, you'd celebrate too.

If the Dems can keep their feet from getting cold and their razors sharp they will probably report more chipping away of the huge deficit by the time they adjourn, which Senate Majority Leader Sanchez is hoping is by sundown tonight. That timeline was encouraged as news swept through the Roundhouse that progressive Dems might agree to public education cuts of 1.5 percent as proposed by Governor Big Bill. That would pave the way for a measure to chop a higher percentage from all other state agencies.

Veteran Santa Fe Representative Lucky Varela authored a measure that made it through House Appropriations 11-6 that has $54 million in public education cuts, up from the $40 million Big Bill proposed. The Varela bill also includes a $35 million hit to higher education and a $102 million trim for other state agencies. If it can get through the House, it will serve as the template for the Senate.

The problem, as any Republican worth his country club membership will tell you, is that we are looking to solve much of this shortfall with "one time money." That means for the budget year that starts July 1, 2010, there will need to be even more pain administered. For example, in addition to that one-time $100 million found in cash accounts, we have Varela's bill that would use $79 million in federal stimulus money that would keep some programs running at current levels through June. After that there's no money for them unless new money (like new taxes) is found to support them.

Senator John "Dr. No" Smith and fellow fiscal surgeons, Varela and Roswell's Tim Jennings, have badgered, cajoled, begged and browbeat to get their fellow Dems to do what their DNA says they can't--cut a government budget in a big way. If they succeed, Jennings and Smith may have to do something their DNA says they can't--support some form of tax increases when the Legislature reconvenes for a 30 day session in January.

Progress today is also contingent upon House Speaker Ben Lujan bringing together his increasingly fractured Dem caucus, but if the progressives can swallow the small education cut, he is closing in. Big Bill is watching over it all, but he's already given the lawmakers enough heartburn to cause a shortage of Rolaids. He needs to give them plenty of room in what appears to be the final hours.


We'll update the blog today as the Legislature may head toward a final deal and adjournment. You can catch the Senate web cast and the House audio stream here.


He let his Senate Dems bitch and moan about Big Bill, demand tax increases that were not to be, indulged their humor and even made time for silly memorials. Majority Leader Sanchez has had a good run since Saturday, but it won't mean a damn thing if he can't get this train into the station on time--and with some hefty budget cargo aboard.


From the Senior Alligator file and why so many legislators--both D and R--failed to oppose Big Bill's big budgets during the boom years:

Have you forgotten Bill's vetoes of capital outlay allocations of legislators who displeased him? He strong-armed a lot of votes for his profligate spending proposals. Many legislators feared retaliation. So they voted to spend what he proposed. Should they have shown more courage? Yes, but many are too weak-kneed to face off against a vindictive governor.


Another Bill cabinet secretary is headed up the political food chain:

Governor Richardson announced that New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department Secretary Cindy Padilla has accepted a position with the federal Administration on Aging in Washington, D.C. Padilla will serve as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary.

Earlier this month Pamela Hyde, cabinet secretary for the Human Services Department, was appointed Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.

Could Secretary Hyde give New Mexico's abhorrent, but under covered drug overdose rate some attention in her new post? A total of 148 New Mexicans died from heroin or some drug combination that included heroin in 2008. That's up from 108 in 2007. And ground zero for addiction continues to be Rio Arriba County. We are losing generations here. We've asked northern Congressman Ben Ray Lujan to give it his attention. Perhaps he and Hyde can work together.

We are also hearing ABQ's Bryon Paez, a lobbyist and Marine veteran, is in line for a high-level slot at the Department of Defense in Washington. Nothing official yet.

And then there's this from the email:

Joe, the next time you do a "New Mexicans in Washington" piece you might want to mention that Max Minzner is Senior Counsel to the Director of Enforcement at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Norman Bay, also from New Mexico, is the Director, and Max is his lawyer. At least one of the versions of "cap and trade" legislation gives enforcement responsibility to FERC.

Okay, we mentioned it and it comes from lawyer/lobbyist Dick Minzner, father of Max.


One of the state's leading lobbyists is absent from the Legislature, and he misses the action. James "Bud" Mulcock notifies friends in a public letter that he has been stricken with pancreatic cancer is awaiting surgery and thus is not occupying his usual haunts at the Roundhouse:

Louise's and my spirits are good, although admittedly this is not the kind of message one ever wants to get. I have been blessed with a wonderful family and many wonderful friends such as yourself-all backed up by my Calvinistic, predestination Presbyterian upbringing and belief. Who could ask for anything more?

Bud, a native of Artesia, has the NM Coalition of School Administrators as his chief client and they're missing him in this special session that is focusing so much on education. Many remember his tenure at PNM where he served as the utility's government relations chief. We wish him a rapid recovery. His email address is: JamesBud@aol.com.


ABQ Mayor-elect Richard Berry is hoping he keeps his friends at the Roundhouse now that he has left his state representative position to lead the state's largest city. He is seen here at the Capitol with GOP Senators Sue Wilson-Beffort, Bill Payne and Democrat Tim Eichenberg. Those are all ABQ Senators. Berry will also need to work over rural legislators who are not always the most trusting of ABQ and its big city ways. Some ABQ councilors are already complaining about lost capital outlay money for city projects, but who isn't?


We now bring you courtesy of our top political sources the final-hours drama deep inside the camp of ABQ Mayor Martin Chavez as the curtain began to fall on his hopes for a fourth term. This internal memo to the mayor and his inner circle came from a top advisor and was circulated in the wee hours of the Sunday morning before the Tuesday election. It shows you the high drama and tension that makes close elections so compelling.

It is apparent to me that we are in serious trouble of not making the run-off, with Berry winning 40% on the first round. I believe he will get approximately 34,000 votes with about an 87,000 vote turnout which takes him very close to 40%. If the total vote is 85,000--34,000 votes is 40%.

We need to do something to take 2- 3% of Berry's vote (approximately 1,000 votes) to keep him from winning and force a run-off. Apparently nothing we have done has stopped his unifying solid Republican support behind him. He is very strong in solid Republican households (households with 2 or more Republicans and pure Republican households). I think we need to hit him as hard as we can with solid Republican households on Monday to shake their confidence in someone they really don't know. We will need some well known Republicans who are willing to step up.

It appears we are winning Democrats that don't vote in City elections by over 2 - 1 (2008 general election voters that have not voted in a city election). We will need to motivate them to vote and increase the total pool of voters to over 85,000. Please read the attached so we can discuss the concept on Sunday. This is a first draft written at 2:30 in the morning so I may wake up and realize I am way off base but I want your opinions....

Turnout for the Oct. 6 election plunged to around 83,000 making for an even more conservative, Republican-oriented electorate. Also, history will note that one Anglo candidate--Berry--faced two Hispanics--Chavez and Richard Romero--giving the R additional strength among Anglo Dems and independents of a more conservative bent than in a large turnout election.

One other note. The Berry camp says its polling on the "Sanctuary City" policy Berry promulgated during the campaign is very popular across the board, including with the Hispanic community and that it is race-baiting to claim otherwise. We guess then that one of the new mayor's first actions upon taking office will be to have a well-promoted news conference on the steps of Government Center, immediately announcing a new and tougher policy by the Albuquerque Police Department when it comes to questioning possible illegal immigrants. Or will a new policy be announced in a more quiet fashion? Or might there be no policy change at all? We'll see.

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