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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Longtime Lawmaker Predicts No Layoffs Or Furloughs For State Workers As Martinez Seeks Agency Cuts, Plus: There He Goes--Again, Big Bill To N. Korea 

All you state employees freaking out about being laid off or being subjected to lengthy furloughs get an early Christmas gift from one Republican lawmaker. ABQ GOP State. Rep. Larry Larrañaga tells us he believes the big state budget shortfall of some $400 million should be resolved without any employee layoffs or furloughs.

We have lot of positions that have not been filled and the savings is kicking in. I think we can avoid layoffs or furloughs by reducing expenditures in state agencies..." He told us.

Larrañaga is only one legislator, but he is a member of House Appropriations and a respected voice in the Guv-elect's circle. Lawmakers will convene a 60 day session January 18 to approve a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

There are signs that the long Bear Market may finally be on the ebb, improving state revenue collections ever so slightly. Also, state government employment is now down by several thousand from its peak, largely the result of unfilled vacancies, according to a recent news report filed by the New Mexican's Kate Nash.

Big Bill ordered five day furloughs of most state workers this past year to address the continuing budget dilemma.

The Martinez camp is circulating a memo to state agencies asking for theoretical budgets that trim 10 percent. They have not mentioned layoffs or furloughs as part of their budget remedy. She has pledged not to cut public education or Medicaid and will not support any tax increases.

Is Larrañaga's restrained analysis of the budget outlook a tone we can expect more of as the R's begin to take more responsibility in governing the state?

GAMING GARDNER

Veteran reporter Walt Rubel of the Las Cruces Sun-News analyzes the selection of GOP Roswell State Rep. Keith Gardner as chief of staff for Governor-elect Martinez:

Martinez's selection of former House Minority Whip Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, as chief of staff should pay dividends in her dealings with the Legislature in general and House in particular. When I was covering state government, Gardner, dubbed the "Gentle Giant" for his physical size and calm demeanor, had established a reputation as a problem solver who has a firm grasp of the issues, asks the right questions in committee meetings...

BILL TO N. KOREA

There's still some political life in Big Bill as witnessed by the confirmation that he will be going on a "private trip" to North Korea at the invitation of government officials there. The reclusive nation is atop the world's hot spots and his Dec. 16 trip will be closely watched. Richardson has been there many times before. This mission comes as he finishes his eight year run as Governor, raising the question of whether he may be in line for an envoy position with President Obama when he leaves the Guv's office.

Bill is still being hounded by legal issues surrounding the continued federal investigation into pay to play allegations involving state investment funds. He escaped an indictment in another pay to play case, but it appears the probes will follow him into private life and even on that "private trip" to reclusive North Korea.

CAMERA READY

The Peachtree state thinks all is peachy with its film incentive program, unlike some other state where the program has been called into question, including New Mexico where some legislators doubt its value--and its cost. But Georgia says Hollywood is all good:

The heart of the law is a 20% tax credit for companies that spend a minimum of $500,000 on production or post-production of films in Georgia. Companies can also get an additional 10% tax credit for including a Georgia logo on the finished project (subject to qualification). The credit is transferable in the case that the company has little or no tax liability in Georgia. In some cases, companies can also get a sales tax exemption for goods and services bought in Georgia, an incentive introduced in 2002.

New Mexico spent about $180 million in the last three years to lure Hollywood productions here. Efforts are expected at the next legislative session to cap the amount allowed under the incentive program.

DID YOU KNOW...

If the 15.1 million unemployed were a state, they would have 21 members of Congress, with 23 votes in the Electoral College in 2012.

Meantime, the jobs depression is starting to hit those with college degrees much harder:

The jobless rate for Americans with at least a bachelor's degree rose to 5.1%, the highest since 1970 when records were first kept, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. October's 4.7% rate was up from 4.4% in September. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate last month rose to 9.8% from 9.6%.

SEE THE SENATE

From Senator Tom Udall:

...Udall is inviting college students to apply for internships in each of his offices. To submit an application for an internship with Udall’s office, please visit the Web site. All internships are unpaid, but may count toward college credit.

THE BOTTOM LINES
Lee Rawls
Word comes to us of the death of Lee Rawls, a key power player in the lengthy career of former NM GOP Senator Pete Domenici. Rawls served as Domenici's chief of staff in the first half of Pete's 36 year Senate career. Some insiders referred to him as "Pete's brain." Rawls went on to become chief of staff to the FBI director, among other top government positions. He also authored a well-received book on congressional partisanship.

Rawls suffered from leukemia. Services will be at 11:00 a.m. Saturday in the Auditorium of the War College at Ft. McNair in Washington, D.C.

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