Thursday, January 14, 2010

Speaker Speaks: Our Pre-Session Tax Briefing With Lujan, Plus: More "Richardson 59," And Rael's New TV, Also: The Story Of Joe And Jose 

Speaker & Governor
New Mexico House Speaker Ben Lujan tells us he isn't interested in "nickel and diming" when it comes to raising $200 million in new taxes. He says he and his fellow House Dems are looking for a couple of major measures to raise the revenue to help resolve a budget deficit of at least $500 million for the budget year that starts July 1. Our interview highlights:
  • He's not very interested in a a tax on sugary foods. He says it wouldn't raise much money. He remains firmly against reinstating the gross receipts tax on food which he helped repeal.
  • He is amenable to an increase in the gross receipts tax of up to half a percent which he says would raise $250 million a year. He says local governments have been raising the gross receipts tax and keeping all the revenues. He believes it's the state's turn.
  • He fleshed out details of that proposed surtax we blogged about Wednesday. He said it would be a surtax of one percent on individuals making over $75,000 a year and $150,000 for joint filers. He would like it to last two to three years and says it would bring in about $76 million a year.
  • He is open to closing the loophole that allows big box chains like Wal-Mart to avoid some state taxes. That would raise anywhere from $25 to $100 million a year.
  • He says the capital gains tax may be low, but raising it would not do much good because not many taxpayers are showing capital gains after the stock and real estate crashes

  • He believes it is foolhardy to cut Medicaid, the health insurance plan for the poor, because each dollar it gets is matched with three dollars from the feds.
  • He knows a tax increase of any kind will be a tough sell in the more conservative Senate and says he wants to work closer with Senators than in past sessions in crafting a tax package.
  • He is "not interested" in the proposal for a two percent across the board cut in state worker salaries. Either is Rep. Lucky Varela. We can probably count that one dead.
Our take: We sense some support for an increase in the state gross receipts tax among conservative Dem senators. Even a quarter cent would raise over $100 million a year. It may be hard to resist if Lujan can get it through the House, but will Big Bill sign it? If it is labeled "temporary" he could.

The 30 day session starts next Tuesday.


Liberal legislators from ABQ's SE Heights and Lt. Governor Denish had a pre-session gathering this week. One of our readers takes you there:

I was at the "Rt 66 Forum" last night at Plumbers Hall in ABQ and organized by nearby Dem ward leaders. The gathering had a forum addressing the upcoming session, moderated by Sen. Cisco McSorley, with presentations and Q & A from Diane Denish, Sen. Tim Keller and Rep. Gail Chasey and others.

There was lots of hand-wringing about our economic woes and the Legislative Finance Committee directives, which are deemed to most harm the needy and disabled, public school children, and medicaid recipients.

But I found the most interesting insight came in response to a question asking the legislators what they would be doing about the mess that the University of New Mexico has become, with overpaid, and top-heavy VPs and administration. Legislators stated there were budget methods they could and would be employing to control the VP salary and staffing growth that has occurred in the current administration.

The legislators at that event represent the UNM community or vicinity. If these traditional defenders of the school are finally fed up with the UNM administrative bloat, there might be some change.

And some more on this meeting from another reader:

I asked the Lt. Gov, and the legislators, what's the chance to re-write and change the tax code altogether. They all looked at each other, and Cisco blurted out that there isn't time in the present 30-day session, and the agenda has pretty much been already set. But, next year, with the 60-day session, and the elections over with, maybe that's much more of a possibility.

Senator McSorley made a bold prediction at the meeting. He said he did not believe the Senate would approve the renomination of UNM Regent Jamie Koch. Koch told us this week he expects the Senate Rules Committee to conduct a confirmation hearing in the upcoming session. The hearing was delayed last year and Koch has yet to be confirmed for a second term.


The names of the 59 exempt employees let go this month by Big Bill, but kept secret by the administration, continue to trickle into us. This time it's a public information officer position we learn that has been eliminated. From our insider:

The PIO position is for the Indian Affairs Department has been eliminated. The former PIO's name was David Harwell. According to the ABQ Journal employee listing he was making $60,000/year.

The Legislature ordered a cutback in the number of exempt employees which have proliferated in recent years.


The word "integrity" is among those flashed in large script across the screen as Lawrence Rael becomes the first of the give Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor to go up with paid television (Ad is here). The ethics and integrity issue lurks in this campaign and Rael supporters have been arguing that Brian Colon, another leading contender for the nomination, has ties that are too close to Big Bill's campaign apparatus which have been the subject of numerous investigations. Colon was treasurer for a Richardson political action committee.

Rael did not say how much time he was buying but called it a "major" and that it would run on ABQ broadcast stations as well as cable. The ad, produced by ABQ based Vaughn Wedeen Kuhn, was not expensively produced.It shows Rael standing against an autumnal backdrop narrating his accomplishments. There was immediate push back from the Alligators on Rael's contention that this was a major buy. From one of them:

...To call his TV buy "major," is a joke. It's less than $10,000 on broadcast this week and under 4K on cable. A weak broadcast buy from a real campaign would be around 50K. And a buy to really move poll numbers would be 80-100K. I don't know where anyone gets the idea that this is a good use of money. It'll have virtually no impact on his name ID.


The use of early TV at this stage is debatable. The Light Guv race will largely come down to organizing for the March pre-primary convention where several thousand Dems will gather to decide who gets sanctioned for the June 1 primary ballot. If a candidate gets 20 percent, they are on. If not, they can still get on by submitting additional petition signatures, but that has never been the path to winning. Analysts expect perhaps three of the five candidates to be able to muster at least 20 percent.

So the Rael TV and any other that comes from the other candidates is largely aimed at bolstering them within the party ranks. If delegates like the TV spot, it could give them more confidence in making Rael their choice for second banana. Or so the reasoning must go when you start writing TV checks in January.

By the way tonight at 6 at the UNM School of Law, the Bernalillo County Democratic Party will be hosting a forum for the Lt. Governor Candidates.


Christina & Joe Campos
We gently ribbed Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Joe Campos this week, noting that he has been known as "Jose" in previous political campaigns but is using "Joe" for his first statewide run. Campos is a state representative as well as mayor of Santa Rosa. His wife, Christina, emailed an entertaining retort to our observation that we think you'll enjoy:

Dear Joe (or is it Joseph?), You mention that Joe Campos has gone from Jose to Joe in this campaign. Well it’s a bit more complicated. He was born Jose Campos. However, when the Sisters of St. Joseph (from Boston) came to teach at the Saint Rose of Lima Catholic School, all the children’s names were anglicized, including Joe’s and his siblings.’ As such, Pablo became Paul; Rosa Maria, Rose; Ricardo, Ricky; Debra, Debbie; Santiago, James, and Jose, Joseph.

It gets more interesting. When Joe went to high school at NM Military Institute, they made him use his legal name, and he became Jose once more, and it stuck. Thus, I came to know him at UNM as Jose. Now, imagine my surprise when I found out his father was opening my love letters to him (as innocent as they were). Why, you might ask. Because the father was Jose, and my beloved was still known in Santa Rosa as Joseph, or Joe for short. As you can imagine, I learned to call him Joseph really quickly.

He ran for Mayor of Santa Rosa as Joseph, but when he ran for State Representative he chose to use his nickname, Joe, although on the ballot he is listed as Jose. (Told you it was complicated.) Fortunately, voters are sophisticated enough to find him on the ballot under his legal name. Ironically, many of his constituents and friends in eastern New Mexico still him Jose. Although, his childhood friends and family still call him Joseph. Our son is also named Jose. He chooses to go by Joey.

Regards, Christina Campos (yes, with an “h”)

How about that! Well, they don't call this place the home of New Mexico politics for nothing.

From Albuquerque, I'm Joseph Monahan reporting.

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