Monday, November 16, 2009

Big Bill's Birthday: Time To Reenergize? State Awaits Solutions To Budget Debacle, Plus: Fund-Raiders, Double Dippers And More On Bruce's Passing 

Look who's eligible for Social Security. Big Bill celebrated #62 Sunday, and with the state budget deficit looming over the Roundhouse, early retirement may actually look attractive. But how about a national job with Obama? The buzz over that was intense when Bill traveled to Cuba a couple of months ago. Not so much now. From Politics & Policy:

"His chance of landing another big-time national position," says political scientist Gilbert Sanchez of the University of New Mexico, "has come and gone."

And we have been so looking forward to hanging in Havana, smokin' cigars with Bill, Paul Blanchard and the rest of the gang.


Bill has been reluctant to embrace the state's budget crisis and get cooking on solving it. In fact, he recently said it wasn't even a crisis. But cracks in the dam finally appeared last week when he agreed to furlough state workers, something previously off the table. He is also saying that some tax increases may be needed.

In Santa Fe and in watering holes across the state, they speculate whether Richardson's reticence to own this crisis is simply to protect his cronies high-paying jobs and/or the special interests of the nominating wing of the Democratic Party or whether it is because he sees his legacy jeopardized by the revenue collapse. Or are his advisers whispering sweet nothings in his ear when he asks for a briefing on economic policy? Or is it all of the above?

If it is his first-term legacy, Bill does not have to agonize. Those four years are secure for posterity. Among other things, he won long overdue teacher pay increases; launched the Spaceport and Rail Runner; made tremendous strides on DWI and reinvigorated the film industry. The spending was exorbitant but so were revenues and the Legislature approved every penny.

In 2003, after eight years of doing nothing was a substitute for policy, New Mexico was ready to get moving. Richardson got us moving.

The second term, as with most second terms, is a different story. We all know the gory details--pay-to-play, the complete breakdown in legislative relationships; politics infesting the university; lagging public school performance despite buckets of money and no significant economic diversification.


The Governor and his advisors can still turn lemons into lemonade in the January legislative session. But they will have to fully own the budget debacle. They have been reactive, taking little bites as the crisis deepens. But the lame-duck Governor has an opportunity to get bold again.

The times may be better suited for a conservative, but how about a comprehensive plan to restructure state government for the lean years ahead? What should stay and what should go? What about our over dependence on oil and gas revenue? Instead of waiting for prices to rebound, how about a plan to wean us off that morphine drip? The Governor has formed a task force to look into the tax side of the equation, but we await a more holistic approach from the state's leaders on how to deal with this new era.

The Guv has admitted the state's failings in educating large swaths of the Hispanic and Native American students and begun to deal with it. Why can't he do the same with the budget and economy in his next state-of-the-state address?

It will take more than a glass of Gatorade for Big Bill to get re-energized. But if he does, he could give the state and himself a birthday present by developing a pragmatic template for the future. It also might give him a few white marks next to those black ones that already color his second term legacy.


We're getting word that Eugene Moser, a five-year analyst with the Legislative Finance Committee, will become the new head of Human Resources for soon-to-be ABQ Mayor RJ Berry. Like the mayor-elect, Moser is a Republican. This is an important gig as the new hires go through HR. Moser served on the city personnel board courtesy of an appointment by Mayor Chavez in 2002. He previously worked in HR at the UNM Health Sciences Center. Patricia Miller, an early supporter of Mayor Chavez, has had the job for the past eight years. Berry takes office Dec. 1.


While Berry prepares to fill out his administration, one of his first appointments--Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White as Public Safety Director--is getting in some last minute politicking. White, whose name recently popped up on a fund-raising letter for GOP Guv candidate and Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez, has now waded directly into the four way GOP race and openly endorsed law enforcement colleague Martinez. White says in a direct mail piece:

We must get behind the strongest Republican candidate today. Susana Martinez has been elected District Attorney four times in Dona Ana County county where Republicans are outnumbered nearly 3 to 1. Martinez is the only candidate with a proven track record defeating Democrats in tough races. But she’s more than just a skilled campaigner. Susana Martinez shares our conservative values and is rock-solid on the issues.

White's formal endorsement comes just two weeks before he takes up with the city and when such an endorsement might cause waves. Martinez is trying to erase the perception that she is a regional candidate and White's endorsement will presumably help. However, Martinez appears to be reluctant to debut in the ABQ media. KKOB-AM radio has been talking with all the GOP Guv candidates--but so far no Martinez. We're told she is tentatively scheduled to appear on the conservative talker in a couple of weeks. She has also yet to make her way onto ABQ TV news, aside from some brief snippets when she announced her candidacy.


The AP gets to that proposal from state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez to have a constitutional amendment passed to allow up to $2 billion to be taken out of the state's Permanent Fund to solve the state's budget problems. Sanchez dropped that one in our laps when we ran into him at lunch earlier this month.

Does a constitutional amendment have any chance of passing? It would take a majority vote in both the Senate and House. It would seem unlikely, but if it does the measure would have to be approved by voters next November. That could make it easier for some lawmakers to vote in favor. However, legislative committees will have to approve it before it can get votes on the senate and house floors and that may be the stumbling block.

Speaking of having lunch, Jacob Candelaria and I will be doing just that soon. The recent Princeton University grad, now working in Santa Fe as a program evaluator for the Legislative Finance Committee, was the first to name all three Republican lieutenant governors since 1965. E. Lee Francis under Dave Cargo (66-70); Jack Stahl under Garrey Carruthers (87-90) and Walter Bradley (95-03).

Jacob's knowledge of La Politica wins him lunch. If we have our repast in Santa Fe, maybe we'll invite along one of those nicely paid political appointees who Big Bill announced Thursday would be losing their jobs. They really know the meaning of a free lunch.


Why are New Mexicans increasingly outraged by the "double-dipping" in state government? Here's why.

Take, for example, the deputy cabinet secretary for the state General Services Department. Between the $99,424 Marilyn Hill earns at GSD, and the $68,000 yearly pension she takes home from the state’s Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), Hill makes more than $167,000 a year, state records show.

Another Richardson appointee, Jeffrey Riggs, makes $158,000, thanks to his $96,928 salary as Deputy Director of the state Educational Retirement Board (ERB) and his $61,656 yearly PERA pension, according to state records.

And don't forget the double-dippers at city and county governments around our enchanted land.

We would open up good paying jobs for future generations if the Legislature dumps double-dipping, And we save money. That's because unlike a regular employee, the state has to pay the retirement contributions of the double-dippers when they go back on the payroll.

If there is a leftover relic from the now deceased Great Bull Market, double-dipping is it.

Bruce & Alice
First, this update from the King family:

Former Governor Bruce King will lie in state at the NM State Capitol on Friday, November 20, 2009 from 9:00AM to 5:00PM. Funeral Services will be on Saturday, November 21, 2009 at the Moriarty High School Gymnasium at 10:00 AM, with Reverend Dr. Russell C. Lee, Lutheran Pastor officiating.

Lots of folks remember the '94 Guv campaign because every time we mention it--as we did in our remembrance of Governor King Friday--we get email about it. We said one of the reasons Bruce lost to Republican Gary Johnson was because he was not of the TV age (Not to mention that voters aren't prone to give anyone a fourth term and a bunch of other reasons). University of New Mexico professor Maggie Werner-Washburne wants to add this addendum:

When Bruce lost in 1994, it was not just his inability to get the vote. As I recall, his Lt. Governor, Roberto Mondragon, ran against him as the Green Party candidate. That split the Democratic vote and Johnson won. We are going to miss Bruce--and Alice. He knew almost everyone in the state by name.

It was really impressive.

Indeed it was, Maggie. And in this case that old saying: "We won't see the likes of him again" can be stated with certitude.

The New York Times took note of the King passing and came with this obit. And the former Governor's home county newspaper--the Santa Fe New Mexican-- toasted their native son in this farewell editorial.

Rancher King of Stanley was also important to rural New Mexico. Folks and politicians on the East Side remembered him in the Clovis News-Journal.


Some analysts think King's opposition to legalized gambling on Indian reservations may have played a role in his '94 defeat. Maybe so, but Bruce was 70 years old and the times were changing rapidly. He was challenged in the Democratic primary that year by Lieutenant Governor Casey Luna which signaled the trouble to come. And, as Maggie mentioned, Roberto Mondragon, another Light Guv under Bruce, ran against him as a Green Party candidate and got 10 percent of the vote.

And you wonder why Diane Denish worries about who will win next year's Light Guv nomination?


We were just thinking. Can we get Governor King's memorial service carried live by one or more of the statewide TV stations and/or streamed on the Net? Many New Mexicans who knew King won't be able to attend and would appreciate a way of being there in spirit. We'd be surprised if this coverage wasn't made available, but we're are mentioning it now so the TV types know that we are counting on them.


Farmington GOP state Senator Bill Sharer on the next legislative session scheduled to begin January 19:

So hold on to your wallets, gather up the children and lock your doors, because the Democrats are coming, and they want what you have.

But, Bill, what part of the house do you stash the children in to keep them safe from the Democrats? Is it like a tornado and everyone gets in the bath tub?

This is the home of New Mexico politics.
Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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