Thursday, January 06, 2011

Susana's Stamp: New & Lower Salary Era For Cabinet, Plus: The Spaceport: When Does She Start The Cheerleading? And: The All New Sec. Of State Office 

Welcome back. Let's get right to the action...

No one who serves in Governor Martinez's cabinet is going to be in the food stamp line, but the evolving administration's order trimming cabinet salaries to no more than $125,000 taps into the populist zeitgeist that helped get her elected. It comes on the heels of her letting go of the two chefs at the Guv's Mansion.

The savings from these moves will be in the hundreds of thousands, not the millions, but they may lay the groundwork for her to call for a reduction in salaries among thousands of rank and file state workers that would result in significant savings in addressing the budget shortfall.

Most of the cabinet secretaries do not make over $125,000, according to a check we did at the NM Sunshine Portal. However, that doesn't mean Susana's hires will be getting a raise.

Each cabinet secretary will earn a lower salary than his or her predecessor
Cumulative salaries for New Mexico cabinet secretaries will be cut by at least ten percent over the previous administration...

That ten percent number seems to be the administration's starting point for the total cut they would like to see from the state budget. The Legislature and the Guv will tussle over the exact nature of the cuts and they will be less than 10 percent, but there will be cuts. Martinez has said she is not for an across-the-board the cut and she will find legislative agreement. Some departments will be targeted more than others.

The cabinet secretary for the Department of Health will take one of the biggest hits as a result of Martinez's order. They will go from $185,000 a year to the $125,000 mark. New Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera will not be clipping coupons, but the PED salary will be pared from $155,000.

Other current cabinet secretary salaries that will now be the high point until there are raises: Cultural Affairs-$116,000; Public Safety--$123,000; Human Services--$117,000; Environment--$116,000; Workforce Solutions--$105,000; Transportation--$113,000; CYFD--$109,000.

Here's a list of the pay for the new cabinet secretaries.


To no one's surprise Rick Homans is out as executive director of the Spaceport. He was a close ally of Big Bill and Martinez's move was expected. Homans who was making about $175,000 a year, was asked to resign and did so.

Spaceport supporters remain nervous over Martinez's attitude towards the southern NM project. She wants to audit the contract between the state and Virgin Atlantic, the spaceport contractor that aims to launch flights into space for civilians at $200,000 a pop. But the Governor has not been cheerleading the project, a potential economic boon for her home area as well as the entire state.

Big Bill was buddies with Virgin's charismatic leader Richard Branson and they made a splash. We hope that relationship is not making Martinez reticent. She should and can have her own relationship with Branson and advance what could be one of the most significant projects in state histiory.

The new Governor's emphasis on how the taxpayer approved dollars for the Spaceport are being spent is merited, but it's being done at the expense--so far--of her sorely needed support and full embrace of this project.

Homans nailed it as he said going out the door:

She has to believe in the project and its massive potential to create jobs and impact education. She has to become its biggest champion and rally her administration to support this effort. There is no middle ground.

A hiring of a dynamic new executive director for the Spaceport is a must. And how about a statement of support from Susana for the mission--not cautious rhetoric? That would help light a candle down there that much quicker and rocket New Mexico into a whole new era.

Ken Ortiz
It appears Dianna Duran, New Mexico's first Republican secretary in state elected since the 1920's, has selected a solid bunch to help run the office. That's the word from a Senior Alligator who monitors such things. He reports that her main appointees should go a long way in restoring order to what was a chaotic office under SOS Mary Herrera.

Duran selected Ken Ortiz, a Democrat, as her chief of staff. He has a reputation as a good government mechanic, helping to straighten out the problem plagued Workforce Solutions Department where he was secretary. He also earned kudos for his performance at the motor vehicle department.

Bobbi Shearer is a paralegal from Capitan who has worked as a legislative analyst with the House Voters and Elections Committee. She now takes on the important task of Bureau of Elections Director. She also has other government experience in SE NM.

There was speculation that GOP Roswell State Senator "Lightning Rod" Adair, who managed Duran's campaign, might end up in the elections post or another. However, Adair and Shearer are friends, giving him a pipeline into the bureau as well as the SOS. (We previously blogged of Adair's friendship with Gov. Martinez chief of staff Keith Gardner).

Mary Quintana is deputy chief of staff. She was Otero County Chief Deputy Clerk. She is also being well-received by those who will need to work with her. SOS Duran is a former Otero county clerk.

Ellie Ortiz, no relation to Ken Ortiz, is going to handle the financial department at the SOS office. She was the analyst for the SOS budget at the Legislative Finance Committee, giving her a leg up.

Former State Senator Duran has been an ardent advocate for a voter ID program. It has been controversial and a favorite of national R's. She will probably try to push it again but its chances of winning legislative approval remain iffy.

Our Senior Gator says that Duran's staff will be viewed as competent. The danger for her is coming off too political and hard-right. He believes if she plays it down the middle, the first GOP SOS could win another term in four years. Sounds about right. And having Democrat Ortiz around may help.


The former first lady will give a lecture at Hobbs High School March 29.

I don't think I will ever forget Election Night 2004 on KANW-FM. We were getting a report from veteran New Mexico political expert Bruce Donisthorpe who said President Bush had gone over 80 percent in Lea County where Hobbs is located. We asked Bruce to double-check. He did and it was true. We then wondered aloud if the Democrats would have done better in Lea with a Green Party candidate. Now that's what you call "Bush Country."


Legislators are going to get an earful as they prepare for yet another round of budget cuts. Some of it will start tonight as a group of ABQ lawmakers hold a town hall meeting as they prepare for the legislative session that begins Jan. 18.

Senator Cisco McSorley, Senator Tim Keller, Representative Gail Chasey, Representative Al Park, and Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton will be at the African American Performing Arts Center on the Expo New Mexico Fairgrounds 310 San Pedro NE, tonight from 6:00 pm until 7:30.

This is the SE ABQ legislative contingent. There's a lot of seniority in this group. With the exception of freshman Senator Keller, this gang has been around a long time. They ought to be able to hold their own with the new GOP Governor and then some.


We're going to post for you in its entirety the first Hispanic Education Status report because the achievement gap--performance of Hispanic and Native American students--is the stiffest educational challenge facing the state. The Hispanic-Education-Report is here and this from a news article:

The achievement gap between Hispanic students and their Anglo counterparts has widened and narrowed by very little over the past six years. The achievement gap is pronounced in math and reading at all K-12 grade levels.

New Mexico’s first Hispanic Education Status Report analyzes all data available to identify what is working and not working for the state’s Hispanic students. The report was a requirement of the Hispanic Education Act, passed by the 2010 legislature and went into effect on July 1, 2010.

About 56 percent of the state's public school students are Hispanic.

And in case you were wondering, the census reports that Hispanics are currently 45.6 % of the State population, or 919,410. Whites (not Hispanic) are 40.9%; Native Americans are 9.7%.


The Journal came with a piece questioning whether the lengthy questionnaire given to job seekers in the Martinez administration is too intrusive and violates an applicants privacy. There's renewed interest in the application questions which were posted here Monday courtesy of a Senior Alligator. Here it is again.

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