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Friday, March 06, 2009

Mayor Marty First To Qualify For Public Funding; Puts On The Speed And Turns Up The Heat; Who Will Keep Up? Plus: A New Mexican Snags Top D.C. Post 

Mayor Chavez
The campaign of ABQ Mayor Marty Chavez is operating on all cylinders, turning in an impressive early performance by collecting over 4,500 five dollar contributions, easily becoming the first mayoral contender to qualify for $328,000 in public financing and putting his foes on notice that he has once again come to play.

The successful contribution drive for what would be his fourth mayoral term was one more reason for the mayor to throw a party this week. The other was to celebrate his 57th birthday which he did with his volunteers at the home of Mark Fleisher, his campaign manager, who told the Chavez faithful:

It was a great birthday present for the Mayor--completing all required contributions in less than two weeks. We will be filing them with the City Clerk for validation and to become certified as a Publicly Funded Candidate. Because of your hard work the campaign will receive $328,000 the first week of April to run The Mayor's Re-Election Campaign.

Mayoral candidates need 3,300 $5 contributions to qualify for public financing. Who else will get it done? Insiders say the bests bets are GOP State Rep. Richard Berry who can lean on the state and county Republican organizations and former Dem State Senator Richard Romero, the favorite of many liberals who also have organizational experience. Dem City Councilors Michael Cadigan and Debbie O'Malley remain question marks. Romero had collected about 1,000 contributions as of early this week while Cadigan had obtained about 700. They have until the end of this month to get to about 3,300.

That Chavez was able to quality for public financing in only two weeks speaks to the many city employees and longtime political contacts he could call on for help. But it also speaks to his ability to whip an organization into shape and take command, qualities that voters look for not just in a candidate, but also in their mayor. Clearly, Chavez is going for a a first round kill--a vote total of 40 percent that would avoid putting him in a run-off with the second place finisher. This early organizational rout of his opposition makes it hard to bet against him.

MORE MAYOR RACE

Mayoral candidates also need to submit over 6,500 petition signatures to make the ballot, but they have until the end of April to get those. My top city analysts believe no more than three or four candidates will qualify for public financing. They say we may have a candidate make the October ballot by getting petition signatures, but not take the public financing, but that is a long shot. The bottom line? We had four candidates in 2005. Look for a similar number this year.

NEW MEXICO GETS ONE
Hilary Tompkins
Ever since Big Bill was forced to withdraw as Obama's commerce secretary, New Mexico has had a political drought in the new administration--no major appointees from our state. That seems ready to change. Hilary Tompkins, the former chief counsel to Big Bill, is in line to become the top legal official for the Interior Department and Secretary Ken Salazar. She is currently being vetted for the post and a formal announcement is expected soon.

Hilary is a member of the Navajo Nation. She was born at Zuni, NM, adopted at birth and raised in New Jersey. The Stanford Law grad is now an adjunct professor who teaches courses in Indian law at the UNM School of Law. Her appointment as Solicitor of Interior requires Senate confirmation, but NM Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman will have no problem touting Tompkins to their colleagues. She gets high marks from those who have worked with her. Also, having a Navajo in the key Interior legal position is going to give NM a seat at the table in an agency that exercises significant influence here.

Our records check shows Tompkins donated $4800 to the Obama campaign. She also donated $500 to the 2008 Udall campaign and $250 to the campaign of Rep. Martin Heinrich.

While Richardson is licking his wounds from his commerce withdrawal, he can take some solace that it was his appointment of Tompkins that positioned her for the top post. NM could use a few more voices in D.C. agencies like Energy and Interior. Maybe that's something for our congressional delegation to work on.

CYNICAL IN SANTA FE?

Seeing is believing when it comes to ethics bills at the Roundhouse. That's the opinion of veteran observers of the Legislature. They remain unimpressed with the action thus far, even the approval of a campaign contribution bill by the Senate Rules Committee where a lot of ethics stuff usually dies. We asked several what their outlook was for passage of major ethics legislation and to a person they said expected nothing--nada--to pass this session. Are they too cynical after years of witnessing the ethics graveyard grow ever larger?

CHEAP SHOT?

Some readers say we were too tough on Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White and his SWAT team when we said they had bad luck after staking out a house for over eight hours and an alleged killer turned out to never have been at the location. Retired cop James Flores was among those taking us to task

That was a cheap shot at the Sheriff’s department, including their SWAT team regarding the call-out. They worked hard and stayed diligent to protocol, and trust me, nobody wanted to hook this guy up more than them. Investigating and searching out homicide suspects, and coming up empty handed, is extremely frustrating, to say the least...

THE BOTTOM LINES


There were too may cooks in the kitchen sending us e-mails on behalf of the University of New Mexico Graduate and Professional Students Association and that led to a mix-up. Lisa Knudsen assures us she is the official GPSA chair and says:

...GPSA passed 2 resolutions (not 4) related to the UNM administration - 1) in support of the faculty, including their request for an audit with the amendment that each of the faculty's motions be voted on by the GPSA members as a whole in early April and 2) no confidence in Regent Jamie Koch. We did not vote on either the VP Harris or the President Schmidly resolutions...(Those will be voted on by the GPSA membership). I met with State Auditor Hector Balderas. He seemed open to conducting an audit though cautioned that likely no one would "win" in this situation.


We said Thursday that State Senator Stuart Ingle was a "Clovis lawmaker." Ray Sullivan, publisher for Freedom New Mexico, which puts out the Clovis News-Journal and the Portales News-Tribune, among others, sets the record straight:

Joe: Hate to tell you but you mention in the (UNM Regent Jamie) Koch article that Stu Ingle is a Clovis politico. The folks in Portales and Roosevelt County would be surprised to hear that since he's a farmer down that way.

Thanks for blogging in, Ray. For the record, the Senator represents parts of Chaves, Curry, De Baca & Roosevelt counties. Stu is a farmer? Well, then. Of course he's not from Clovis. Our old friend--former State Senator and lobbying legend Odis Echols, a Clovis native, once told us the only farmers in Clovis are "dirt farmers." With all due respect to Clovis...

And that's a wrap on the week that was. We're a one-man band playing a lot of music and appreciate each of our contributors for helping us keep it in tune.

Reporting and blogging from Albuquerque, NM, I'm Joe Monahan.

E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Thursday, March 05, 2009

GOP Leader Not Of Mind To Oppose Koch Nomination, But UNM Opposition Spreads, Plus: Darren's Bad Luck, And: A NM President in D.C. 

Sen. Ingle
There was some good news for University of New Mexico Regents Chairman Jamie Koch in a brief conversation we had with state Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle. The east side lawmaker indicated he was not of a mind to oppose Koch's confirmation to a second six year term as a regent, despite the controversy that continues to rage over the Santa Fe businessman's stewardship. Ingle felt much of the dissatisfaction with Koch centered with faculty and was not widespread enough to justify his ouster. Ingle did not say he would vote for Koch who is being nominated again by Governor Richardson, but you get the picture. If the R's are not going to against Koch, the regent with long Dem ties should be safe.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Linda Lopez has promised tough questions for Koch. A hearing has yet to be scheduled. The full Senate would vote on the nomination after it comes out of committee. If the political earth is going to shake more on this one, it seems it willl be up to the South Valley lawmaker or a Governor who reverses course.

STUDENTS TAKE ON JAMIE

Despite the probability of another term, Koch, a former chairman of the NM Democratic Party, will face a rocky road at UNM in the years ahead and that may mean more problems for the school's image. On the heels of the faculty voting for a no-confidence resolution in Koch, UNM President Schmidly and VP David Harris, Tuesday night the UNM Graduate and Professional Students Association passed two resolutions of no confidence: One for the Administration as a whole and one for Koch.

Koch, as his style, has pushed back against his critics, getting a favorable editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican and penning an op-ed piece for the Journal, but he can't escape the media heat. V.B. Price, a UNM watcher of 45 years standing and one of the state's leading liberal writers, continued the drumbeat on Koch and company calling on the Governor to make things right:

...I’ve supported the governor...and think he’s done a lot of good..But he has made a terrible mess of the University of New Mexico, appointing regents who apparently know nothing about the operation of a university and have no sympathy for any part of its primary mission, and depositing in the president’s office two people who’ve earned the enmity of the university community. It’s time for him to make things right, to...weed out the ineffective and the arrogantly incompetent...

Complicating this matter politically is Koch's service as the finance co-chair for Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish's Dem guv campaign. Big Bill is already being roasted for politicizing the university with the appointment of his old friend Koch and others. If Jamie is still on the board and Di becomes Governor, the hot potato will be hers. What does she think of all this?

HE'S NOT THERE?

Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White's luck hasn't improved much since he was landlslided by Dem Martin Henrich for the ABQ congressional seat. Darren and his SWAT team staked out a house for over eight hours Tuesday where they believed a killer was holed up only to figure out at 1 in the morning that no one was there. Kind of like what happened to the sheriff Election Night...

And here's the mug shot that Darren hoped he would never see---the "official" photograph of Congresman Heinrich released by his D.C. office. During the campaign, some of White's supporters released an old photo of Heinrich showing the future congressman sporting shoulder length hair, hoping that it might cause some image damage, but it looks like the 37 year old has found a good barber on Capitol Hill--not to mention some good committee assignments.

Heinrich, earlier elected president of his freshman House class, has, his office confirms, also added this to his duties:

"Rep. Heinrich is a Regional Whip for Region 6 which includes the Representatives in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. From Region 6, Rep. Heinrich focuses on the Members from New Mexico and Arizona.

In his spare time he reads nuclear power blueprints.

GONE FISHING
Lenton Malry
Longtime NM politico Lenton Malry, 67, is kicking back a bit these days. The former Bernalillo County Commissioner and the state's first Black state legislator, tells us he is now switched to part-time as a neighborhood coordinator for the county. The full-time position is now filled by Bernadette Miera, who was formerly the assistant to Bernalillo County Commissioner Teresa Cordova who lost her seat in '08 to Art De La Cruz. Bernadette is the wife of ABQ Dem State Rep. Rick Miera.

And for those wondering why the budget for Bernalillo County is not feeling as much as pain as the city of ABQ's, there is a simple explanation. The city gets most of its tax money from the gross receipts tax which fluctuates with consumer activity. The county gets much of its revenues from the much more stable and predictable property tax.

One other thing. City Councilor Sanchez, who we interviewed on the city budget on the Wednesday blog, agrees with our Alligators that the recent hiring of a city "transportation czar" at a salary of $102,000 was over the top considering the times we are in. Not that he still doesn't love you, Mayor.

PRESIDENTIAL AMBITION
Kelly-Renae Edwards
When she served as an intern to Dem US Senator Jeff Bingaman, Kelly-Renae Edwards said someday she wanted to be President of the USA. Well, you have to start somewhere so we note Kelly-Renae's ascension to the presidency of the NM State Society for 2009. The senior legislative assistant for Public Service Company of NM will preside over a variety of events for New Mexicans making D.C their home, including the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Red and Green Holiday party. Get busy, Madame President.

This is the home of New Mexico politics. E-mail your news and comments, anonymously if you wish.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Another Budget Shocker Coming For ABQ: How Will It Play Out?, Plus: More From My Biz Beat, And: Readers Chime In On Partners Bill 

ABQ Councilor Sanchez
Another budget shocker appears to be in store for the state's largest city. ABQ City Hall insiders say business has slowed to a crawl, isn't expected top pick up steam anytime soon and that means a shortfall for the budget year starting July 1 of up to $40 million. That's the first authoritative word that top city planners expect this recession to continue. The city is already grappling with a $20 million shortfall for the budget year that goes until June 30. So far, layoffs from the city's 6,200 member work force have been avoided by not filling many vacant positions, but there could be bad news if this recession continues, says City Councilor and budget chair Ken Sanchez:

"We need to do everything we can to avoid throwing people out of work. That would only add to the economic problem. However, we may have to look at cutting employee hours if the numbers keep coming up short," Sanchez told me during a budget briefing I asked him to give our readers.

The councilor also told us the $40 million shortfall may be the high-water mark. He expects something more on the order of $30 million. The General Fund portion of the budget is about $466 million, so a $40 million shortage in it is a big deal. The West Side Dem councilor, who is up for re-election this year, agreed that the city may want to mimic the recent action of Governor Richardson and cut salaries of highly-paid employees who serve at the pleasure of the mayor. Richardson cut such paychecks for "exempt employees" by two percent in a symbolic measure to show that the budget burden will be shared.

The police and fire department budgets are still considered sacrosanct, but Sanchez told me the continuing overtime problem at those departments could get city council attention as he looks for ways to save money without laying off what he called "critical personnel."

Mayor Chavez will soon send the councilors his proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The nine member council will start going over it April 1. This may be the most challenging budget since the early 90's when then-Mayor Louis Saavedra laid off employees to make ends meet.

FOLLOWING THE MONEY--AGAIN


Don't let your eyes glaze over, but we have to clarify the story about Hewlett-Packard and its request for capital outlay money to build a customer service center in Rio Rancho. We received conflicting info this week from various sources including news accounts, so we took off our blogger hat and put on our press hat and asked the Governor's office for an official statement:

(The Hewlett-Packard request) is for $12 million in capital outlay for the next fiscal year. No additional capital outlay is requested beyond that. And just to clarify, the capital outlay is no longer split in thirds between the Governor, House and Senate. There are "statewide" and "local" projects. The Governor has pushed hard for "statewide" projects as part of his efforts to reform the capital outlay process, while recognizing that there are still local needs. A project like HP is considered a statewide project, or priority, because it is an economic development project that creates jobs.

Okay, thanks Guv. That being said, let's run some pro and con on this taxpayer money for the computer giant which says the center could eventually employ up to 1,300. To the e-mail:

In the face of Hewlett Packard's cash $10 billion cash hoard, the $12 million for their center is at once corporate greed and corporate welfare. Let 'em eat cake. We are a great place for them to do business. Try San Jose, CA just down the street from HP headquarters or anywhere on the west coast where work ethic went out with Cheech and Chong.

And from the pro-HP side:

With a full blown catastrophe underway nationwide, a $12 million deal to land one of America’s premier computer companies to New Mexico is worth the price of admission. Have you ever taken a look at how some cap outlay dollars have been spent in the past? At least this is on real deal economic development that will create jobs for New Mexicans


The HP funding became more of a hot button because of the recent collapse of state-aided Eclipse Aviation and the general outcry against "corporate welfare" in the wake of the federal banking and other bailouts. One of our insiders says he believes the legislative leadership will line up with the Guv for the HP money and it will pass this session.

WOULD YOU BUY ONE?

Speaking of Eclipse and wondering about those plans to resurrect it from bankruptcy. Remember during the debate on the proposed federal bailout of the car companies how GM and others argued that if they were forced to declare bankruptcy customers would shun their vehicles for fear that they would be defective? So how would prospective customers feel about buying a plane from a bankrupt airline? Somebody needs to be asking....

NO DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY

That domestic partner bill that went down to defeat in the state Senate last week had the emotions boiling over. Foes argued it was a gateway to gay marriage and the debate raged across the state, including in our e-mail box. From Republican Bob Cornelius, 29, who made a brief run for the southern congressional seat in '08:

A social conservative constituency...awakened with the election of Barack Obama. Coattails reached down to bring three new liberal State Senators and three new liberal State Representatives to Santa Fe. These coattails have been mistaken for a mandate of a liberal ideology that New Mexico is not yet willing to embrace. This mistake gave false hope to liberals and they got greedy...Since Election Day we have seen the liberal ideology rebuked by the re-election of Senator Tim Jennings as Senate Pro-Tem and now the State Senate voted down the Domestic Partnerships bill.

Democrat Stephanie DuBois of Tularosa gave us an opposite take:

Joe, I think that if (ABQ Dem) Sen. Bernadette Sanchez was voting with the Catholic church when she voted against the partner bill she should be told the church didn't elect her. If she feels compelled to vote with the church let her become a nun...This bill is not about religion.
Will the ultra religious right begin going after straight couples who live in "sin" in the eyes of the church and produce children? Maybe we should have a witch hunt and find out who all those unmarried couples are that are living in sin.

TAMMY AND CHUBY

It's like not being able to say no to dessert, so we have helplessly waded into the Byzantine world of Taos County politics. We knew we shouldn't have, but here we are following the contest for Democratic county chair between incumbent and frontrunner Chuby Tafoya and challenger Tammy Jaramillo. We previously blogged that Tammy had ties to the AFSCME labor union. That led Andrew Padilla of AFSCME to clarify:

AFSCME does not endorse for any County Chair of any party. That said, Tammy Jaramillo has taken a proactive interest in every part of our political programs...She has also helped us lobby the Legislature on issues of importance to our members and labor. On top of her extensive campaign and union experience (she was also president of one of our largest locals in New Mexico), she is simply easy to work with and yet she is firm in her convictions.

Tammy works as a secretary for Taos County state Senator Carlos Cisneros who ran as the "progressive" candidate when he tried to oust Tim Jennings as Senate pro tem last month. But Chuby is seen as the "progressive" in the Taos County chair battle and we now owe him equal time.So onward we go, ever deeper into the crevasses of our mysterious but always beloved La Politica!

THE BOTTOM LINES

"Were you thinking about the bear market," inquires a reader who notes our Tuesday misspelling of "grisly." We spelled it like the bear--grizzly....Talk about contrary thinking. The New Mexican thinks the leadership at the University of New Mexico is just fine. The paper is more in the majority court when it avers that the nomination of Jamie Koch for another six year term on the board is likely to get through the Senate, if they even decide to vote on it. Yes, Alligators, that is Jamie's hometown paper.

From Jay Leno: "Hey, the Obamas are expecting the arrival of the first dog in April. ... Actually, it's Obama's second choice of a dog. The first dog, he had some tax problems."

E-mail your news and comments, anonymously if you wish.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Politics Of A Serial Killer Spree; Are There Any? Plus: Val Meets With Marty, Says A Gator, And: On The Biz Beat; Intel Lays Off Even More 

Michelle Gina Valdez
It appeared this could be the year when an ABQ mayoral election didn't revolve around crime and public safety, but the grisly work of the city's apparently first documented serial killer and the discovery, so far, of 13 young and presumably female victims will change that. The sour economy is still the story above the fold, but the West Side slaughter will embed itself in the collective consciousness and rekindle fear of crime and be inserted--overtly or not--into the October election.

How the mayoral candidates handle the issue will be of interest. Will they question why the serial killer--now presumed dead or inactive--was not thwarted earlier in his deadly spree? Will they pledge even more resources to public safety which is already gobbling up an outsized portion of the city budget? Will they shrug and say nothing can really stop a determined serial killer? Will they use the killings as a jumping off point to discuss the problem of drug abuse--the apparent cause of the victims falling to their still unknown killer or killers? Or will they look at the apparent serial killings as an historical oddity, not representative of the city's social fabric?

These young daughters of Albuquerque--Michelle Gina Valdez, a mother of two and pregnant at the time of her murder, was 22; Victoria Chavez was 28 and a mother of one--are no longer buried and forgotten. They and most of the other feared victims appear to hail from native Hispanic families whose ties here go back centuries. The photo of Michelle Gina posted here today shows her as she probably wished she would always be--happy and hopeful. Her demise is not an embarrassment to the city, but it is a tragedy and is legitimate cause for political inquiry. But first city fathers and religious leaders can consider a proper citywide memorial service for all of the victims of this horrendous crime. Isn't that something all our municipal candidates should agree on?

HOLLYWOOD REMINDER

The only instance in city history that we can recall that comes even remotely close to the West Side slaughter is the March 1996 slayings of five persons in connection with the robbery of the Hollywood video store at Central and San Mateo. Three of the victims were teens. We've long felt those murders were a turning point in the city's crime history. After that, we went from mainly small town crime to big city stuff with more gangs and a generally more menacing tone to crime around here.

Marty Chavez was also mayor during the Hollywood Video killings. Like today, his instincts were to initially downplay its impact, but the outpouring of community grief moved him, as we recall, to participate in setting up a memorial fund. We and other Chavez watchers expect him to eventually lead the community in a full and proper acknowledgement of the evil that has now happened on his city's front porch.

VAL WATCH

On a lighter note, was that actor and possible 2010 Dem Guv contender visiting with ABQ Mayor Chavez at the mayor's office Monday? It was, according to one of our Alligators. Chavez, who was the '98 Dem Guv nominee, is still talked about as a possible 2010 Guv candidate, despite dropping out of the race last year to pursue a bid for the US Senate and then dropping out of that contest as well. The frontrunner for the nod is Light Guv Diane Denish who Chavez did poorly against in polling match-ups and that caused him to go for Senate instead. So far, there is no major Hispanic contender announced for the Dem Guv run. Senate Leader Sanchez is toying with it, but Chavez's aides are talking him up for Guv, but first they have to get him re-elected mayor in October. As you can tell, there was plenty of politics for Marty and Val to talk about.

And some more on the mayor's race. KOB-TV's Jeff Maher is reporting Mayor Marty is having the easiest time of it when it comes to collecting those 3,300 five dollar contributions necessary to qualify for public campaign financing. He could be done with it as soon as Friday. Contenders Cadigan, Romero, O'Malley and Berry are working it hard, but suspense is building on whether all of them will be able to make the deadline.

And three more candidates picked up packets to make the mayoral run, but none of them are political name brands. Will they all make the ballot by getting 6,600 signatures? It's doubtful. Two of the three say they will privately finance their campaigns. Public financed candidates will get about $328,000. There is enough money in the public kitty for about four qualified candidates.

INSIDE INTEL

As some of our Alligators feared, more layoffs have been announced at Rio Rancho's Intel. The word is that the lost jobs will total less than the 100-200 layoffs recently announced by the computer chip giant. But they sting nonetheless. Intel recently announced a big expansion of the plant that will employ some 1,500, but only for a year or so. The Gators wondered if despite that expansion Intel would continue to shrink its permanent work force. The company has gone from employing over 5,200 to about 3,200 and with these layoffs it appears we are headed toward the 3,000 level and maybe less. The temporary construction work is a boost, but the long term outlook for Intel in Rio Rancho remains worrisome.

MORE JOBS NEWS

The Monday timing of that Hewlett Packard job fair in Rio Rancho is interesting. That wouldn't have anything do with the Legislature closing in on a decision on putting up $12 million in capital outlay funds, would it? The proposal is to help the computer giant build a customer support center there. HP is not saying what would happen to its plans to hire up to 1,300 workers by 2013 at the center if the state cash does not come through.

The job fair attracted a huge crowd--over 1,300 prospective employees--and that news is being watched by lawmakers who will decide on the HP money. We're told the legislative pot that holds the money for the HP project only has in it about $130 million this year--down dramatically from years past as oil and gas revenues dry up.

Thee is a pot of money designated for "statewide" capital projects. That's the pot Big Bill is asking lawmakers to tap for HP.

When we pointed recently out that HP has $10 billion in cash, supporters of the outlay argued back that the Legislature has put up money for a lot less worthy projects. Will long lines of prospective employees lining up with resumes give momentum to the HP funding?

Thanks for stopping by. E-mail your news and comments.

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2009
Not for reproduction without permission of the author

Monday, March 02, 2009

Battle Of The Budget; Have Dems Dodged Bullet? Plus: Eclipse Redux? Say It Isn't So, And: Latest On Bill, Di & Val 

Reps. Lujan & Saavedra
With the economy flat on its back and tax revenues declining faster than Lobo coach Steve Alford can push a player to the bench, it's a lousy time for government to throw more people out of work. That's why the Dems seem to have the edge in their fight with the R's over the $5.5 billion state budget that has passed out of the state House 45-25 and now awaits action in the Senate.

The R's are arguing that the $330 million in federal stimulus money being used to plug the budget shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1 delays the inevitable. They say ultimately the number of state workers will have to be reduced to address the state's "structural deficit."

But the budget worked out in the House Appropriations Committee by Chairman Kiki Saavedra and company and bearing the stamp of approval of House Speaker Ben Lujan cuts the budget without cashiering state workers. They are fully aware that the stimulus money is a temporary solution, but if the economy bounces back some of the budget hole will be filled by increased tax revenues. They are going to give that a chance to happen.

R's seem to want Saavedra and Lujan to act as if there is no stimulus money, but why? If further budget cuts are needed, the Legislature will be back in session In January of 2010. (The House budget has an 11 percent reserve and we may have to draw it down). However, the R's valid point of a top-heavy state government remains. Our budget watchers say that doesn't mean we need layoffs. How about if the Legislature and Governor enforce a hiring freeze without political exemptions? And what about not filling certain positions as they become vacant and also really enforcing it?

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith has a good starting point with the budget sent over by his House colleagues. Thousands of New Mexicans are suffering a terrible toll due to job loss; the last thing we want is more job losses or tax increases. The federal stimulus has given the Legislature the chance to whittle down the state work force without using a meat cleaver. Chairman Smith may want to pick up where Lujan and Saavedra left off.

END GAME IN SIGHT

Where we've been and where we're going with Legislative Session '09. The sixty day confab ends March 21. The budget is the main action, but there are also all those ethics bills. Maybe, just maybe, we get one that matters this year?

ECLIPSE REDUX?

Somebody say it ain't so! More of Eclipse Aviation? We speak of the company that in ten years burned through $1 billion, laid off over 1500 employees (the remaining 800 last month) and had state and city economic planners stumbling over themselves to hand out cash and economic incentives. Well, one Phil Friedman, president of an outfit called Harlow Aerostructures out of Wichita, has emerged and is making noise about buying what's left of Eclipse at the upcoming bankruptcy auction. He says he can restart the small jet manufacturer, albeit on a much smaller scale. And get this: He says he will consider keeping Eclipse in ABQ if city taxpayers give him financial incentives!

What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? Mayor Marty and the city council could be risking commitment to a psychiatric facility if they fall for this one. Fortunately, the Wichita Eagle reports the scheme may be straight out of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

MORE ON MORIARTY


In picking up on our blog about the delay of the Downs at ABQ moving to a new racino at Moriarty, the wires and papers cited the Guv's refusal to support a $4.5 million measure to run utilities to the site. Reports also said a carbon dioxide line running below the proposed site has raised safety concerns, prompting Downs President Paul Blanchard to ask the Legislature to extend his racing and slot machine lease at Expo NM at least until January 2011 with an option to extend it to Jan 2012. That's a long time. And we still wonder about the unanswered question--where is the financing coming from in this environment, not to mention the customers? With what appears to be a secular peak in the gambling business--after a decades-long bull run--the Moriarty racino may prove to be a project on paper only.

REHASH STAGE?

The Sunday paper headlined an article about former Big Bill aides Dave Contarino and David Harris being treated to an LA Lakers game and a steak dinner by CDR shortly after the bond company won a state contract. But it wasn't exactly news. Back on January 7 Bloomberg reported the same dinner and basketball outing and that CDR had contributed $100,000 to Richardson political action committees. Are we getting to the rehash stage in the federal pay to play investigation of the Guv and his aides?

BILL, DI AND VAL

Big Bill continues to poll below 50% approval--41% in the latest SurveyUSA--the result no doubt of the federal pay to play investigation and the continued thumbs down the public is giving to to many incumbents because of the sour economy. Light Guv Diane Denish will continue to try to separate herself from the current Guv as she seeks the 2010 Dem Guv nod. But insiders are asking why is she already engaging actor possible rival Val Kilmer? She has come with an early and arguably obscure endorsement from a NM TV and film union, apparently to show that despite Val's Hollywood pedigree he can't carry his own crowd.

Some pros question why presumed frontrunner Di is already stepping on the accelerator when it comes to Kilmer, especially since he is not a certain contender. Better for Di to chill and watch what develops, they advise. And what is she going to do if Kilmer comes with visits from the likes of Danny DeVito? Trot out Al Hurricane? (No, he votes Republican.) Better to fight the battle on her own ground, not his.

But then the pull of Val is proving irresistible to not only Di, but to those who have sworn not to succumb to his siren song. Bruce Daniels--aka the ABQ Journal's NewsSeeker--is back on the Kilmer beat full force, even after publicly pledging to refrain. The press would have a better chance sticking to their South Beach diets than their vows to shun Val.

THE MUNOZ BLOG
Sen. Munoz
In his "Letter from Gallup," a blog from a friend with a liberal bent that we put up last week, he said he was disappointed in his new state Senator--Democrat George Munoz. Munoz voted to keep conservative Dem Senator Jennings as president pro tem and last week voted against the domestic partners bill. The freshman lawmaker blogged in this response

... I have been extremely involved (in Gallup) for many decades as a businessman, politician and active community member. What your friend appears to be unaware of, though, is that my political direction directly reflects the will of my constituents and is built on my own litmus test: What’s best for the district, Gallup and its people? That’s the question I ask myself prior to any decision I make in this arena.

I encourage your friend, who sounds like he’s genuinely concerned with the welfare of Gallup to detail his concerns in an e-mail or phone call directly to my office. That goes for any constituent. That way, I can bring those concerns with me to the Roundhouse...I don’t expect to please all of the people all of the time, but I would at least appreciate the opportunity to do so.

We don't know yet how he will be at making laws, but George is a pretty good blogger.

THE BOTTOM LINES

We just learned of the passing (on Feb. 21) of former NM attorney general and state treasurer Earl Hartley. The Curry County native was 95 and also a former state senator. He was elected Treasurer in 1982, but resigned in November 1985 after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of misusing money for a Western State Treasurer’s Association conference in Santa Fe.

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