Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Economy Watch: Lab Funding Outlook Improves, Plus: GOP Lt. Gov Hopeful Loans Himself $100K, And: 1994 Redux; The Race For Guv Then 

VP Biden
You can give some of the thanks to Vice-President Joe Biden for the improved financial fortunes of New Mexico's two national nuclear weapons labs. So says ABQ US Rep. Martin Heinrich who tells us he sees budget growth coming for Sandia Labs after several relatively flat years. That's a big deal for the state's largest city as Sandia's budget is $2.2 billion annually. The two labs employ about 20,000 New Mexicans.

Heinrich's optimism doesn't mean we will see the whopping 22 percent budget increase for Los Alamos and the 14 percent increase for Sandia that the Obama administration is recommending, but it does allay fears that there will be downsizing of the facilities. Congress will have the final word and a much smaller increase would not be unusual.

Heinrich, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said "Biden gets it" when it comes to the labs. A recent nuclear policy speech by the Veep supports that narrative:

...The spread of nuclear weapons is the greatest threat facing our country. That is why we are working both to stop their proliferation and eventually to eliminate them. Until that day comes, though, we will do everything necessary to maintain our arsenal.

At the vanguard of this effort...are our nuclear weapons laboratories, national treasures that deserve our support. Their invaluable contributions range from building the world’s fastest supercomputers, to developing cleaner fuels, to surveying the heavens with robotic telescopes.

Unfortunately, during the last decade, our nuclear complex and experts were neglected and underfunde

Tight budgets forced more than 2,000 employees of Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore from their jobs between 2006 and 2008, including highly-skilled scientists...

Last December Sandia announced 100 layoffs, mostly among highly skilled machinists. The federal budget year begins October 1 and that's when any increased funding would kick in.

The ABQ metro is being slammed by a generations-high jobless rate (the official rate is near 9 percent) and the city government faces a record budget shortfall. If Heinrich has it right, at least one leg of the area's economic stool is not going to be chopped off.


Heinrich, seeking his second term this year, is pivoting toward the jobs issue after a year of the health care debate. He held a jobs fair in the city Monday, bringing the unemployed together with prospective employers. Republican Jon Barela is Heinrich's challenger.


We ran into Heinrich the other day while having lunch with a friend at The Grove, a daytime eatery On Central just east of downtown. It's good. Most surprising was the robust cup of coffee. We thought Starbucks had a monopoly on that.

The scene is urban professional and the ambiance is lots of natural light.

Mayor Berry says the winning ways of the University of New Mexico basketball Lobos is putting ABQ residents in a jollier mood. He even says they are going out to dinner more. We don't know about that, but this is New Mexico Restaurant Week and there are quite a few specials available.

Brian Moore
GOP Light Guv hopeful Brian Moore has come with a $100,000 personal loan to his campaign, money he needs as he is up against John Sanchez, a wealthy ABQ businessman who can self-finance his effort. Also in the race are ABQ state Senator Kent Cravens and Santa Fe doctor J.R. Damron.

Moore became the latest politico to post his donations on his Web site, even though the next state disclosure report isn't due until April 12. Moore, however, did not post his expenditures. Aside from the 100k he gave himself, Moore, a grocery store owner and former Clayton area state rep, raised another $18,000.

Candidates have been more willing to early release their contributions in the wake of numerous state finance scandals. Maybe the Secretary of State should make available space on her Web site for voluntary disclosure to encourage more early reporting?

This Saturday's GOP preprimary convention will help tell the tale on the GOP race for #2. A candidate must score 20 percent of the delegates to get an official spot on the June 1 primary ballot. Moore, Sanchez and Cravens are seen as most likely making that mark.


NM R's will have their annual Lincoln Day Dinner the evening of the preprimary where Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, will give the keynote.

Sessions is hoping to take back the southern congressional seat from Dem Harry Teague. He also harbors hopes for Republican Jon Barela in the ABQ district held by Martin Heinrich. However, Sessions and the R's may not be able to free up enough money to make the ABQ race competitive.

Both the preprimary convention and the Lincoln dinner will be held at the ABQ Hilton this Saturday.
State Dems will also have their preprimary this Saturday. They will meet at the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino at Pojoaque.

1994 REDUX
Gary Johnson
Every time--and we mean every time---we write about the big 1994 race for Governor between Republican Gary Johnson and Dem Bruce King and in which Johnson triumphed, we get email taking exception.

The latest round is over the gasoline tax and how Johnson and the R's used it as a rallying cry to defeat incumbent King. We didn't say it was the only reason for the King ouster, but it was a major element. With that said, we make room for reader Norm to vent over this bit of history:

...The decisive factor in 1994 was the rage of many Hispanic Dems at Bruce King's primary win over (Lt. Governor) Casey Luna, supposedly a result of a deal with Jim Baca to enter the race and siphon Hispanic votes away from Luna (a deal which I don't believe existed, but many did at the time).

It's certainly true that there was a national trend to the Republicans in 1994, but that didn't keep Jeff Bingaman from winning. Given that many Republicans were unhappy about Gary Johnson's primary win that year, it's hard to see how Luna wouldn't have beaten him, gas tax or not.

Casey Luna beating Johnson in '94? Hold the email, but we don't think so. We do think the Luna challenge to King was an important cause for the King loss, but not decisive.

Today's political climate is similar to 1994 when the R's took the Guv's chair here and the Congress nationally. There is a significant difference--the electorate seems even more dismayed and angered than during that epic year in state political history.

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