Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Two Guvs And Their Tightly Controlled Meeting, Plus: Hector's Headache; His Mounting Legal Bills, And: Even More Speaker Intrigue 

Governor-elect Martinez's visit to the Roundhouse Tuesday to meet with outgoing Governor Big Bill was a tightly controlled event. On TV news it ended with the unsatisfying video of Martinez walking out of the office alone and later describing a "gracious" Governor Richardson. We did get an AP photo of the two meeting, but that was the extent of the coverage of the duo.

Martinez ran a harsh and accusatory campaign against Richardson, accusing him of unethical (if not criminal) behavior and lambasting him in TV spots for months on end. There was a surreal quality to the photo showing Martinez smiling at the man she had demonized. He was shown with his hand up to his throat as if describing how her campaign had choked the air out of him.

It also struck us as bizarre when TV news showed Martinez's rough and tumble political consultant who produced those negative ads against Richardson accompanying Susana from the meeting. Not exactly a message of peace.

That the sitting Governor and the Governor-to-be could not show themselves together before the TV cameras and thus the New Mexican public speaks to the destructive nature of the over-the-top negative campaign our state has just endured.


Big Bill said he would leave Susana a note of advice in the desk when he leaves. What will it say?

How about: "In the office safe you will find the "real" copy of the state budget. You owe $2 billion. Good Luck, Bill."

Along those lines, we get this missive from a Santa Fe Alligator upset that Martinez claimed during the campaign that she did not trust the numbers in the state budget because Bill may have been fiddling with them:

I was surprised when I read Susana's comments about the budget in the Las Cruces Sun-News Q&A you referenced on Monday. When asked for her take on where the budget stands, Martinez responded: “Well, we haven't received much yet - the actual budget itself, one that we can rely on as far as its accuracy. We expect to receive that (this) week.”

Joe, I think you can save her some time. She seems to think the Richardson Administration is hiding the budget and is playing “shell games.” Well, here is a link to the "mysterious" budget, which she may be surprised to learn, is a creature of the Legislature, with some line-item vetoes from the Governor:

I am also surprised that she did not familiarize herself with the budget during the campaign. Did she have anyone on her team familiar with the budget process? If so, she never publicized it. I would have thought that her second announcement after naming her transition chairperson would have been a budget and finance team responsible for finding new Finance and Taxation & Revenue secretaries.

We're going to give that Gator points for asking about Martinez's financial team. The first transition committees announced deal with a bunch of the cabinet agencies except finance and tax--the most important ones for these times. We expect them to come shortly, but that they didn't get announced immediately leaves the impression that Martinez is stalled

King vs. Balderas
He's been the love child of the progressive left but Santa Fe is filled with booby traps that trip up even the most well-intentioned politics. Just ask freshly re-elected State Auditor Hector Balderas. He's been scorched in a KRQE-TV news report that could cause some lasting political scars for the ambitious auditor.

Balderas, who has been embroiled in a multi-year behind-the-scenes court battle with fellow Democrat and Attorney General Gary King, has accumulated a stunning legal bill of $150,000 as he fights with Gary in court. Hector first authorized $50,000 for the outside law firm because his office has only one staff attorney. But that amount has now grown to $155,000 and the meter is still running.

Balderas has repeatedly complained that his agency is underfunded by the Legislature, but this kind of spending on high-powered lawyers to resolve what many see as a political dispute has the potential to haunt Hector in the years ahead. He's been mentioned as a possible attorney general candidate or even a Guv contender down the road. This story looks like one of those the consultants smack their lips over when seeking ammo for powerful negative TV ads.

Meanwhile, King's office has a lot of lawyers to work on this feud. He doesn't have to pay for outside attorneys. How much their legal work is costing on this controversial case is not reported.

Balderas and King may have let their emotions get the better of each other, but it is Hector taking more of a political hit with this revelation. His office has about 30 employees and a $3 million annual budget. That $155,000 in legal fees represents over five percent of his entire budget. And that is during a state budget crisis.

Balderas has rightfully complained that the Legislature is gun-shy about funding his office, but now he's given them ammunition to get even stingier. They can argue that he could have hired two full-time auditors for the price he has spent battling with King. Lawmakers may ask if Balderas will put a cap on the lawyer money or is this an open-ended taxpayer funded feud?

One thing is certain--it's time for Gary and Hector to put their guns back in their holsters and give the taxpayers a break.

Rep. Dona Irwin
More on the developing story we broke here early Monday (the Alligators don't sleep!) on a possible Republican dominated coalition in the state House with Dona Ana County State Rep. Joe Cervantes as speaker.

The votes seem to be there for Joe. Dem Reps Irwin and Nunez are now on the record supporting him (Sounds likes those two made their deal). Add to that his own vote, that of his aunt, Rep. Mary Helen Garcia and the 33 R's, and he is at 37--over the magic majority number of 36. Coalition here we come!

But hold on. There will be enormous pressure placed on Cervantes by labor unions, trial lawyers and other Dem interest groups for him to stop any coup of longtime Speaker Ben Lujan. Will he want to endure that pressure?

If he does go forward, the outlook is for him to attempt to win the prize on the floor of the House on January 18--the opening day of the 60 day session. The House Dems caucus on Sunday, Nov. 20. It is expected a majority of them will stick with Lujan and not dump him for either Cervantes or Rep. Kenny Martinez. That would set up the floor vote at the session opener.

After the caucus Joe might want to book an overseas vacation for the holidays to avoid the crowds that will form trying to get him to change his mind. And nothing is ever certain. If he thinks he has it by a razor-thin margin, things could still get tricky on opening day if all 70 House members were not in attendance.

If a coalition forms it would join the one already in control of the state Senate and similarly composed of the minority R's and conservative Dems.

House coalition or not, all this talk about it is more soothing to GOP Guv-elect Susana than Brahams's Lullaby.


We blogged a bunch about ABQ GOP State Rep. Larry Larranaga Tuesday. More today as we get a letter that Larry sent to his GOP colleagues saying he will challenge Farmington's Tom Taylor for the position of House Minority leader.

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