Tuesday, January 04, 2011
New Guv In Old Comfort Zone On First Day; Crime, Not Economy, Showcased, Plus: Javier Vs. Sam; Possible Dem Chair Battle Draws A Crowd
Governor Martinez stayed tightly within her comfort zone on her first full work day as the state's chief executive. Rather than deal with the state's frail economic health, she showcased a somewhat esoteric law and order issue and spiced it with a dose of partisanship. For a moment it seemed as if the Guv campaign was still underway.
There were no traditional photos of Susana entering the Guv's office for the first time or hard at work at her desk on the big day. In fact, she left Santa Fe and its symbolism entirely to appear with ABQ Mayor Richard Berry and the ubiquitous ABQ public safety director Darren White. Once here, she stopped a political peeing contest between White and former Governor Big Bill. That would be the one over the location of the state DNA crime lab. (It will come back to ABQ from Santa Fe). For good measure she threw in a proposal asking the Legislature to broaden a DNA sampling requirement enacted in 2006.
These weren't exactly the issues of choice most may have expected to be highlighted on the first day of a governorship. They were more suited for an attorney general or a district attorney (which Martinez was until Saturday) given the public's continued concern over their economic futures. Martinez did discuss the budget briefly in response to reporter questions but made no mention of the Legislature nor made any fresh news on the matter.
The giant elephant in the room, also known as the state budget shortfall, has little, if any, political sex appeal. Fighting the crime battle is always good for the 10 p.m. news ratings so why not on the first day of Susana's four years?
Still, the state awaits a signal that the new administration is committed to some bridge building with the Dems and not headed down the dreaded "all vetoes all the time" road paved by Gary Johnson, the state's last GOP Guv. She has been shown only with R's since the transition as well as on the first three days of her term.
The smidgen of partisanship---besides getting so highly involved in the case of Darren and the DNA--came when the Governor dissed a part of the note that Big Bill left behind for her. She reported that he urged her not to take herself too seriously and not to continue to refer to his administration. She retorted that being Guv is a "serious business" and that in the future she "will refer to where we have been but where we're going as well."
True enough. But like Obama looking back at Bush, Susana will soon realize that Big Bill's staying power in the public's memory is about as good as that of your 90 year old Aunt Tillie. It's her ball now and her ball game.
A SMILE AND A GLARE
When you first glanced at Susana's diss of Richardson on the wires, it came across much harsher than it did on TV news. The cameras revealed that she laughed aloud when questioned about the note and smiled her way through her comments, except for the line about being serious. That's when she gave what is becoming a familiar semi-glare.
Martinez's prosecutorial predilections can come in handy on occasion, but we see how she could benefit greatly from that old bromide, "Say it with a smile."
Republicans just aren't into government as much as Dems. And it shows. The new administration hopes to have the rest of the cabinet named this week. Dems would have had it done an hour after the polls closed.
Martinez may be frustrated by the process. She said at her news conference: “You know the federal government only has 14 cabinet secretary positions, in the state of New Mexico. We have 22.”
A good argument. Not that she needs an especially powerful one with a public more than receptive to start the necessary down sizing.
JAVIER VS. SAM
You mention Sam Bregman's name as we did Monday and it's like throwing red meat to the lions. The showy ABQ trial lawyer's testing of the waters for a run against NM Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzalez has them roaring. Longtime Dem activist Theresa Trujeque belted this out:
I have a major concern with his candidacy in that (Bregman) represented former State Treasurer Robert Vigil. While I understand everyone is entitled to fair representation, I don't want the Republicans using his representation of Robert Vigil on corruption charges and others to say that it is the same old story in the Democratic Party with the leader of the Party defending those in pay-to-play scandals. I believe that every time he would speak on behalf of the Party that the Republicans would raise that issue. It is time Democrats put those stories to rest and we move forward and work on ensuring that the new Administration does not dismantle programs that are important to working families....
And reader Scott Tillman piled on with this:
Didn't Bregman represent Marc Correra, the guy that made millions off state investments in the form of finder's fees, and is under investigation with all the pay to play allegations? It just seems that with Sam as chair of the Democratic Party, the Richardson scandals that plagued Denish would hang over the Party even longer. The party needs to move forward, and not backward, in this humble dems opinion.
But Bregman backers were quick to point out that Javier has his own Big Bill related baggage, including the state employment of his brother which is being painted as political. Monday the chairman was socked in a reader op-ed piece that called on him to resign as a regent at New Mexico State University. And then there's his problems with the development of Santa Fe studios, a start-up that became engulfed in political intrigue.
But the biggest baggage for Gonzales is the disappointing election results. That's the loss of the Guv's office and the comeback of the R's in the Legislature that give them more members than at anytime in modern history.
A spirited contest for party chair this spring could get nasty, but it also might provide some much needed clarity for the state's majority party as it seems directionless as a broken compass.
Here's a novel idea from one of our readers on how to take a bite out of the state budget shortfall:
How about proposing a tax credit to businesses who hire away current state employees? This fulfills a few purposes by, 1) shrinking the size of government by freezing the non-essential vacancies that result, 2) providing an immediate economic development incentive for small businesses to create new jobs, and 3) decreasing the deficit so long as the tax credit is smaller than the resulting state employee salary savings. For example: a state employee making $40,000 costs the state at least 1 1/2 times that amount ($60,000) including all benefits; thus, providing a $30,000 tax credit could actually save the state $30,000. Job creation, deficit reduction, lower taxes? It's worth looking into.
Food for thought there. Even if it only applied to a handful of state workers, it will strike many as better than layoffs.
Does "First Gentleman" Chuck Franco need a First Gentleman Assistant? He strikes us as a man's man who can get things done on his own. If so, Susana can save the state $105,000. That's the salary for the assistant to former first lady Barbara Richardson. Or if he really does need someone, maybe he can bring up one of his retired Cruces buddies who will gladly do it for $50,000 or so. Heck, after a year or so under Susana, some of her staffers might even be competing for a job with the seemingly mellow Mr. Franco.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2011
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