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Friday, February 12, 2010

Clippings From My Newsroom Floor: Thoughts On The Senate Budget; Bravery Or An Evasion? Plus: Sunshine Still Dim At Roundhouse, And: GOP Guv Notes 

Sen. Smith
Dr. No says the state budget pain will be spread around, that everyone will feel it. Well, almost everyone. The good doctor, aka, State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, stripped from the Senate version of the House-passed budget a surcharge of 1.5 percent on the wealthiest taxpayers. Instead he proposes to reinstate the gross receipts tax on certain food items:

A bill pending in the Senate would reinstate the gross receipts tax on certain items except for food staples such as meat and vegetables. Currently, there is no tax on products such as candy, soft drinks, cookies and potato chips.


So we punish the kids who are nagging mom for a package of Oreos at the check-out counter, but leave untouched the retired rich, the trust-fund ski bums and the country club lunch crowd?

And isn't this the dreaded food tax--just defeated in the House--now disguised as a politically correct formula to make it appeal to certain "progressives" whose fascination with controlling the personal lives of Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico borders on a fetish?

Senate Finance also proposes that state employees contribute 1.6 percent more into their retirement accounts, an effective cut in pay on top of a 1.5 percent increased contribution last year. They're talking about exempting lower paid workers, but we'll see what finally emerges when and if the Senate and House budgets are reconciled.

The glaring omission of having the wealthy share in the budget pain clashes with the Democratic Party's constant refrain that it is the defender of "working families." While Senate Finance fronts its budget as an act of bravery, the tax-paying peanut gallery is sure to see it for what it is--an evasion.

Spread the pain around? We know that Deming, where Dr. No hails from, is a long way from Santa Fe. We just didn't know it was so far from reality.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS--STILL


It was a sure-fire prediction last year when wall-leaners said opening up conference committees between the House and Senate would simply move the deal-making further behind-the-scenes. Sarah Welsh of the NM Foundation for Open Government is already voicing frustration with the expertise of legislators when it comes to avoiding the sunshine:

FOG will also be watching any conference-committee meetings – thanks to last year’s big victory, they are now open to the public. Legislators have been meeting a lot in closed-door political caucus, and word is that the Senate Finance Committee planned to close its doors earlier today to discuss the budget in executive session. Here’s hoping that the first major open conference committee isn’t a rubber-stamping formality..

And here's a good question for Sarah from a blog reader:

Joe, Does the NM Open Meetings Act have any affect on the Bernalillo County Commission's junket to Washington, D.C. last week? With four members present, they had a quorum. Any meeting minutes available?

We are guessing they did not conduct a formal meeting so you are not going to get any minutes, but it does raise an interesting point. We'll let you know if we hear anymore.

HIGHER ED

That blast made on the blog Thursday by a UNM professor against the proposed merger of the Higher Education Department with the Public Education Department drew a number of responses from the education community. Here's a sample from Dr. Chris Erickson, economist at New Mexico State:

I read with interest the comment by the UNM professor about potential savings from merging the Higher Education Department into the Public Education Department. The projected savings from the merger is $1.8 million, about 10 times the number cited by the UNM professor. Still the savings from reorganization are relatively small. The main point in my mind is not the cost savings but whether reorganization would serve the interests of the people of New Mexico. HED is chronically under resourced and that the secretary’s office has been a revolving door hasn’t helped. The result has been a feckless, ineffectual department.

We'll check to see if that proposal goes anywhere in the soon-to-conclude legislative session.

ALLEN AND THE AUDIO

The audio we received of that KKOB-AM radio interview with GOP Guv hopeful Allen Weh was of a quality associated with an undercover operation. We really should have had another late night cup of Starbucks before listening. From the Weh campaign:

In your blog, you stated: "Weh made his comments on KKOB-AM radio where he also made a point of telling the audience that another GOP Guv candidate---Dona Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez--was registered as a Democrat before she became the Republican DA in 1997.”

It was (KKOB host Jim) Villanucci who brought up that fact--not Allen.

Which got us to thinking. Both Allen and Susana may need each other. Neither would likely fare well in a one-on-one primary race with Pete Domenci, Jr. But one of them might make the grade if both were going after him.

MORE R STUFF

And reader Alan Schwartz weighed in on Weh calling Domenici an "environmental lawyer":

If I didn't learn anything else in law school, it was that lawyers on both sides of environmental issues practice "environmental law." Pete Jr. has described himself as an "environmental lawyer," possibly in an attempt to make himself look greener. Now Weh seems to be attacking him for it, in an attempt to make Jr. look more liberal. Don't know if you've noticed, but if you go to Jr's law practice web site, the page that lists clients is currently blank.

We did notice that his client page is blank, but we did hear Domenici mention some of his clients during a recent media interview.

And this is sure to get Allen Weh jumping to attention. Domenici is now calling himself the "frontrunner" for the GOP nomination. From the front page of his Web site:

Pete will be speaking at the Sandoval County Republican Party Meeting this Saturday, February 13, at 10:00 AM at the First Baptist Church located at 1906 Grand Avenue in Rio Rancho. Come and learn more about the Republican frontrunner for Governor.


FINAL CLIPPINGS


Brian Miller is the pre-primary convention director for the state Dem Party, not the political director as was blogged yesterday. We received conflicting party info...Meantime, New Mexico native Sisy Garcia has been named Field Director for the party....

Thanks for stopping by here this week.

I'm Joe
Monahan, coming to you from Albuquerque, NM.

Email your news and comments.

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