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Monday, December 20, 2010

Chistmas Gift Suggestions For Susana To New Mexico; Will Any End Up Under Tree? Plus: Senate Leader Says Use Permanent Fund To Ease Budget Pain 

In the spirit of the Twelve Days of Christmas we offer up a list of twelve gifts that Governor-elect Martinez might think about bestowing on the people of our fair state. (Okay, how about 10? We don't want to burn you out this holiday week).

The usual suspects helped us compile the wish list--Senior Alligators, Wall-leaners, insiders and policy wonks. Who knows, maybe Susana will decide to place a couple of them under that impressive state Xmas tree decorating the Capitol grounds. Get out the wrapping paper, here they come:

1. Cut 20 percent from the budget of the Governor's office. It's not so much the money that would be saved, but the symbolism and the message it would send.

2. Establish a community college closure commission. We need to close some of them and in four years we might get there if we start now

3. Consolidate as many of the state's public school districts as possible. Do Portales, Floyd, Dora and Elida really need their own districts?

4. Target the generational drug addiction problem in Rio Arriba County. The county consistently ranks as the worst or among the worst when it comes to heroin overdoses and deaths. Making a dent in it would be a crowning achievement. Could Lt. Gov. Sanchez get involved?

5. Deal directly with the somber fact that more Hispanic and Native American students fail to graduate from high school than their Anglo counterparts. Ask former Governor Carruthers about it.

6. Keep people working. Continue to reduce state government employment through attrition. Forgo layoffs and furloughs and if necessary cut salaries to realize savings. Exempt lower paid employees from the cuts.

7. Direct more attention from social services to early childhood--very early childhood--to instill the value of education and break the cycle of failure.

8. Don't govern by veto. Gary Johnson was of his time. This is your time--and it's different.

9. People to meet with right away: Senator Bingaman: The Governor and the state's senior Senator need to work together to protect our interests. Richard Branson: the Spaceport is a big idea. Embrace it.

10. Surprise us

DRAWING LINES

The Dems are starting to draw some lines in the sand over the state budget. How deep and ingrained they are remains to be seen when they come up against conservative push back.

The biggie is from State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez which would rely on the state's permanent fund to ease some of the deficit pain, not just more budget cuts. Sanchez didn't say how much of the state's possible $400 million budget shortfall he wants resolved by having bonds purchased by the permanent fund and the proceeds directed toward the budget challenged state General Fund. Here's what his news release did say:

...The “Recovery Investment Bonding Act” would raise revenue by allowing the permanent fund to invest in general fund bonds. The revenue from the sale of bonds would go into the general fund to help offset the budget deficit.

“When companies are struggling, they often look for alternatives to generate revenue before making drastic cuts that have the potential to damage their business. This bill provides a way for the state to raise money to continue providing vital services to those most dependent on them, including our children, sick, and elderly."

Governor-elect Martinez is considering spending cuts in education and Medicaid in addition to cutting state agency funding by 10%. “Before putting additional strains on New Mexicans already having a hard time financially, we must consider every alternative...


Under the bill, the corpus of the permanent fund would remain intact. “Last year’s bill was erroneously portrayed as a raid on the permanent fund..."

As we said, this is a big idea which may look more appealing now that the state budget has already been chopped dramatically the last three years.

The Governor-elect has said she does not want to tap into the permanent fund or raise taxes to get at the shortfall. The tax pledge is written in stone, but we sense some room for talking on the Sanchez proposal. Maybe she goes for a small bond float of say $75 million or so to wash away some of the red ink.

She will be a tough sell and she should be. New Mexicans are going to want to see her rid the budget of all possible excess fat before entertaining the bond idea. But that's what negotiating, horse-trading and lawmaking are all about. The January 18 start of the 60 day session of the legislature is now less than a month away.

THE CABINET

When we heard that Demesia Padilla of ABQ's South Valley had been named by Gov-elect Martinez as the new Secretary of the Taxation and Revenue Department we searched for a blog we did years ago on the meaning of that rare first name. Demesia is Spanish form of Demeter, Greek Goddess of the Harvest. In looking for that, we also ran cross a bunch of stories about her 2006 run as the GOP candidate for state treasurer. She lost to Jim Lewis.

Padilla, 50, is a CPA, a former IRS auditor and current member of the Gaming Control Board. She has political ties to R moderate and former NM GOP Governor Dave Cargo and worked in his '93 mayoral campaign (as we also did). But one of Padilla's first tasks will be to fulfill a pledge especially appealing to conservative R's.

The newspaper reported: "Martinez said Padilla will be responsible for crafting legislation that would repeal New Mexico's law allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

The tax department also includes the motor vehicle stuff.

LET THERE BE LIGHT

The Sunshine Portal shining some light on state government is up and running.

THE LEGACY (CONT.)

We asked readers for some thoughts on Big Bill's legacy:

Pete Baston writes:

Joe, I really really had high hopes for Bill but if their was ever a classic example of how to throw away your destiny with greed (amply supported by his advisers ) and shortsightedness well Bill is it...

Matthew Munoz came with this:

Joe, Under Uncle Bill we went from one of the worst states in the nation for DWI's and DWI's related deaths to somewhere in the middle of the pack. A problem that no Governor before Bill was able to solve.


MORE MAIL


Sophie Martin comes with a ribbing regarding a misstep in Greg Sowards’ announcement for the GOP US Senate nomination:

Freedom affords enduring lessons, not endearing. Unless he means that they’re cute.

And State Senator Pete Campos came with this remembrance of former NM Dem Party Chairman and 1986 Dem Guv nominee Ray Powell, Sr. who died last week:

Ray Powell, Sr. was a smart, honest, deeply concerned and fair person. I recall legislative sessions beginning about 16 years ago, when Ray (and the late lobbyist) James “Bud” Mulcock and me would meet once a week at 7:00 a.m. to discuss policy issues affecting New Mexico. The caring, insightful and genuine guidance Mr. Powell and Mr. Mulcock shared with me has been put to good use. I will always remember Chairman Powell as an unselfish, kind, sincere and giving leader.

Siempre, Pete Campos

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