Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Martinez Names Rep. Gardner Staff Chief, Plus: Susana's Inaugural; A No-Limit Game? And: Happy Thanksgiving: Our State's "Culinary Treasures" 

State Rep. Keith Gardner of Roswell will leave the Legislature to become chief of staff to Governor-elect Martinez. That announcement came late Wednesday along with the naming of other key staffers who will surround Martinez when she takes over the Guv's office at the Roundhouse on January 1.

Others named include:

Former GOP State Rep. Brian Moore as deputy chief of staff and legislative director; Ryan Cangiolosi, Martinez's campaign manager, was named as deputy chief of staff overseeing boards and commissions; Jessica Hernandez of the ABQ Rodey law firm becomes General Counsel and Matthew Stackpole, who was a deputy in Martinez's campaign, will be assistant counsel.

Scott Darnell, a former communications director for the NM GOP, will now assume that role for Martinez. Matt Kennicott, who was head of campaign operations for Martinez and a former chief of staff for the House GOP caucus, becomes Director of Policy and Planning.

The top of the team---Gardner and Moore--is heavy on legislative experience which the new Governor lacks and which will be of paramount importance as she grapples with a projected $450 million budget shortfall.

Gardner leaving the House means a new House Minority Whip where the R's now have 33 members, the most in modern times. Martinez will name a replacement for Gardner. House R's will caucus to elect a new whip.

This is also a highly political team with many of the appointees fresh from the campaign trail. It is also a conservative team. However, Gardner and Moore's relationship with legislative Democrats gives Martinez an opening to build her own relationships with the majority party.

Also worth a mention is that only one of the seven appointees is female, a break from Martinez's pattern as Dona Ana County district attorney. Also, only one Hispanic and that will be noticed.

Overall, this group will likely be seen in Santa Fe as having the depth and experience to run the day-to-day operations of state government. Their challenge may be to keep deeply ingrained partisan instincts in check.


No Thanksgiving present from Guv-elect Susana to those politicos eyeing use of the state's huge permanent funds to help solve the budget crisis. She told TV news she is not softening her position:

Now the easy answer can't be going to the permanent fund and it can't be raising taxes either. We have to cut back on spending. State government spending, we over did it. This administration overspent like it was their own money...

Well, it wasn't only the administration that overspent. Didn't the vast majority of the 112 legislators--including Republicans--approve all those past budgets stuffed like a holiday turkey? They sure did. And maybe they cut taxes on the wealthy too much?

As for the permanent funds, there is a little wiggle room for the new Guv. A bill could be sent to her desk that would issue bonds against fund income. That would amount to a promise to pay the money back. Would she consider that a raid?

The growth of the Medicaid health program for low-income New Mexicans is far and away the biggest contributor to the projected state budget shortfall of over $450 million for the budget year that begins next July 1. Here's a strong piece on the problem.


We sense that Susana is about to enter territory laced with mine fields as she grapples with balancing the state budget and possibly reneging on her campaign promise to not cut the public school budget. The APS Board of Education and School Superintendent are being very aggressive in pressuring Martinez to live up to her pledge. They seem emboldened and believe they have the public on their side.

Martinez has started to talk about cutting school administration but protecting classroom dollars. But our Senior Alligators point out she left no room to maneuver on the issue during the campaign. Now she is stuck with the no cuts pledge that had great appeal to centrist voters who would not ordinarily vote Republican.

Martinez is feigning outrage over new projections showing the budget gap growing, again claiming that Big Bill cooked the books. But a blind man could have seen this coming as the Great Recession drags on and on.

The Governor-to-be appears only days away from claiming that "deception" will cause her to break her "no cuts to the schools" promise. But that is not going to wash with a large segment of the electorate who are now going to perceive themselves as being deceived--not by budget shortfall estimates--but by the candidate they placed their trust in. Martinez will at least take some shrapnel from those land mines she is about to step on.

Don't say we didn't tell you.


You would think it would be a no-brainer that Governor-elect Martinez would voluntarily limit the amount any individual or business could donate to her inaugural fund-raising committee. After all, she ran the most vociferous anti-corruption campaign in modern state history. But there is still no word from the Martinez camp in the aftermath of an AP report on whether she will apply new campaign finance limits to her inaugural. Those limits--$5,000 per campaign--are somewhat ambiguous when it comes to applying them to the inauguration.

Martinez says she will disclose who gives money to the inaugural committee, but that's the least to be expected. Big Bill disclosed every single dollar he received too, but that didn't stop pay-to-play. It was the huge amounts donated to his governor and presidential campaigns that caused the trouble.

The hesitation by Susana over voluntarily and enthusiastically applying the limits for her inauguration makes the state wonder if the months-long berating of Big Bill over "pay-to-play" was really about "bold change" or merely a campaign tactic.

Stay tuned.


Because they could go lower:

(AP) - A Realtors group says home sales in New Mexico dropped by 7 percent in October from a month earlier. The median price of homes sold also dropped by nearly 3 percent from September to $175,000. The sales and price figures were released by the Realtors Association of New Mexico.


This being that week of the year, we present from the state tourism department New Mexico's culinary treasures--all of them restaurants that have been operating for over 40 years.

Happy Thanksgiving from the home of New Mexico politics.

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