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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bingaman Tax Vote Preps Him For Re-elect Bid, Plus: The Man Who Will Sell Bill's Jet, And: Where Can You Earn $100 An Hour? 

Sens. Udall & Bingaman
Jeff Bingaman announced he is seeking re-election Monday. No, he did not make a formal announcement with all the political bells and whistles. What he did was become one of only a handful of U.S. Senators to vote against allowing the tax bill to go forward--a bill that extends the Bush tax cuts for everyone, including the wealthiest Americans. The bill moved in the Senate on a 83-15 vote. A final vote on passage is expected today.

It was a clear message from Bingaman to the nominating wing of the New Mexican Democratic Party, enraged as it is by what they see as a cave-in by President Obama whose compromise with the R's extends the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers, including those making over $250,000. Jeff's statement:

This bill does have some useful provisions to stimulate the economy, and I do strongly support extending tax cuts to New Mexicans who need it most. But this bill goes further than that. It extends tax cuts to the highest earners and adds a substantial estate tax cut that will make it very difficult for the next Congress to act in a responsible way to our serious deficit situation. For those reasons, I could not support it.

Not that Bingaman, who will be seeking a sixth term in 2012, will draw a primary challenger. But we just went through an election where enthusiasm for the Dem gubernatorial nominee fell through the floor when she tried to incorporate generous doses of Republican economic philosophy into her platform. Bingaman is signaling he is not about to make the same mistake.

The vote will not hurt Bingaman in impoverished New Mexico where multi-millionaires are as scarce as enchiladas without cheese. Also, his support for middle class tax cuts gives him plenty of cover.

Meanwhile, Senator Tom Udall, as liberal if not more so than Bingaman, is not up for re-election until 2014. He did not join Jeff in his vote:

I voted to move the Senate forward to a straight up or down vote on this tax proposal. While I still have serious concerns with the package, there has been adequate time to study it and now we must do our jobs and vote. I have continually fought against obstruction and needless delay in the Senate and refuse to contribute to our dysfunction by voting to delay further this bill’s consideration.

As for R's who might take on Jeff who is expected to make a formal announcement next March, the short list is, well, pretty short. Former ABQ GOP Congresswoman Heather Wilson tops it. We've thrown out the names of Allen McCulloch, who was the nominee against Bingaman in 2006, and that of Kevin Daniels, a conservative R and owner of a funeral home chain who has made some rumblings, but neither have said anything on the record.

The political atmosphere remains volatile. Even though Bingaman is well-liked, respected and chairman of the Senate energy committee, nothing is certain for any incumbent. Will it stay that way into 2012?

GREAT RECESSION?

Maybe down in the trenches, but on Wall Street they're dancing in the streets.

Compensation on Wall Street is on pace to break a record high for a second consecutive year, as more than three dozen top banks and securities firms will pay $144 billion in salary and benefits.

And for what, you might ask? Good question. They are essentially moving money around and trading. But they did get that taxpayer bailout in 2008 to keep doing it.

This historic and now enduring imbalance in the American economy between the haves and the have nots and the resistance to doing anything about it may be the story they remember most about this era.

THE PLANE!

We chuckled when we saw this line from Governor-elect Martinez's announcement that Ed Burckle has been selected to head the General Services Department:

“One of Mr. Burckle’s first orders of business will be to sell the state’s $5.5 million jet, which has become a symbol of government waste and abuse...

Susana has gotten more mileage out of that state jet than a New Mexico Roadrunner races in a year. But now the headache is here. How does she fulfill her travel plans without angering short-tempered taxpayers? Heck, she may have to get one of those mopeds to keep everyone happy.

EARN $100 AN HOUR!

Sounds like one of those late night TV ads, doesn't it? But it is the actual list of jobs that pay $100 an hour or more presented here with future UNM and NMSU graduates in mind.

Or how about a job where you don't make $100 an hour, but you are definitely overpaid. That would be a $90,000 a year PR flack for Bernalillo County or the Sheriff's department, a topic we dealt with last week and which continues to draw reader email. Like this one:

Wow, Joe! You really drilled the PR/PIO/media relations/ marketing/ communications/ pay story! Made me go to the inflation calculator: in 1978-79 I was hired as PIO for the City of ABQ at $12,500, which in 2009 would be $40,654.60 according to a Googled inflation calculator I just ran.


We searched around and found that a PIO's average pay in NM is about $67,000, meaning the PIO's at Bernalillo County and the Sheriff's department are exorbitantly overpaid. Of course, the spin will be that a "PR manager" makes more. We won't even mention that the county has even more PR people working under the PIO who is making the 90 Grand. And we'll leave out today the PIO making $87,000 a year for the County Clerk when the Clerk has never even had a PIO until now.

Where are the watchdogs on the County Commission? Where's County Manager Thaddeus Lucero? Do they have their heads in Luminaria sand?

ON SECOND THOUGHT

Maybe we should have held back when we blogged recently that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour doesn't want anything from Gov-elect Martinez, only to influence policy. Barbour could be knocking on her door for support if he decides to seek the 2012 GOP Prez nod. The issue arose when we dubbed Barbour one of the key political power players for New Mexico for 2011, based on the Republican Governors Association donating $1.3 million to Martinez's campaign. Barbour chairs the organization.

GIVE IT UP ALREADY

Here's
the official spin on the failure of that proposed $500 million Rio Rancho solar project that was supposed to create 1,500 jobs. It's a doozy.

HOW DID HE DO?


The appraisals of Big Bill's eight years at the helm
are underway.

ALLIGATOR STRIKE

An Alligator takes a bite out of us for giving too much credit to ABQ Dem State Senator Tim Keller for compiling a list of tax credits that cost the state over $1 billion each year.

Keller didn’t compile anything nor did he request the report. You just made it look that way.

The list was put together by the staff of the Legislative Finance Committee at the request of Chairman Lucky Varela, but Keller does get credit for bringing it into the public debate.


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