Thursday, October 20, 2011
State Economy Still Flat On Its Back; Impatience Grows As State Revenues Stall; Can Santa Fe Prime The Pump? Plus: UNM Athletic Boss In Crosshairs
That New Mexico's economy remains flat on its back was reinforced this week with the release of the latest state financial projections in Santa Fe. But there is also something else afoot--fear and brooding over the economy is now turning to impatience. That not only includes the protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement which have made their presence known in ABQ, but also mainstream business figures. Jim Folkman, president of the Home Builders Association of Central NM, normally a fella who sees things as sunny side up, says the continuing employment crisis in the state is taking its toll on his nerves:
We do have confidence that things will improve but I think we're all growing a little impatient for that to happen.
Economic activity in the metro remains meek, as reflected by city tax receipts. In Santa Fe, those state revenue projections say the projected surplus for the budget year that starts next July is down $115 million, much of that because of a pullback in oil and natural gas prices. But the overriding cause is the overall lack of jobs and consumer demand. Our work force is shrinking, not growing. That's why there is that bizarre drop in the jobless rate here. The government doesn't count people who have given up looking for work or who have left the state work force.
The forecast pullback in state revenues signals the need for stimulus, but the Legislature rebuked the Governor when she asked for a $212 million capital outlay bill. She ended up signing one for $86 million, but not all of that will create sorely needed construction jobs and spark economic activity that would benefit other businesses.
You don't need government reports to know how badly jobs are needed around here. Nearly 90 applicants have filed for the $90,000 a year vacancy on the state Public Regulation Commission.
Attracting and keeping good jobs is a long-term generational problem in our enchanted land, but Governor Martinez could shake the jobs tree further by coming with another large capital outlay bill at the January session of the Legislature. And she and the legislative leadership need to get serious about $400 million in unspent capital outlay funds. The foot-dragging on that is borderline disgraceful. What is Santa Fe waiting for?
SOMETHING GOING RIGHT
It is really quit amazing to those of us around long enough to remember the infamous 1980 state pen riot to not see the newspapers filled with lawsuits or horror stories about activity in the state prison system. Apparently we have done something right these past 30 years because prison riots and mayhem behind bars in general is now a rarity--or at least a reported rarity.
It's all a relief to Governor Martinez as it was for Big Bill. The public gives a Guv no credit for keeping things calm in the prisons, but they pay with their right arm if anything goes wrong. The current state prisons spokesman says:
"I can tell you with no doubt, our prisons are safe."
There have been some notable administrative problems with the prison system, including questionable spending. The corrections budget is $300 million a year for nine prisons. But on the big picture issue of keeping the prisons safe and under control, New Mexico has made stability the expected state of affairs.
GET HER ON THE RAIL RUNNER
The Guv's new found warmth toward the Spaceport--expressed in person at christening ceremonies this week--draws the attention of reader Cheryl Haaker in ABQ who wants to get the Guv aboard the Rail Runner.
Maybe someone ought to get her onto the Rail Runner. Say, buy her a day pass down to Albuquerque, or even Belen. Get her on board during one of the "rush" periods, so she can see how many New Mexicans are enjoying the convenience and comfort of letting someone else do the driving, so they can cruise the Internet or sleep during otherwise wasted commuting hours...
Hey! Maybe she could also experience the inconvenience of the limited schedule of trains, the inadequate parking in the park and rides ..well, maybe not. Let's try that after she's been sold on the Rail Runner and is ready to extend it down to El Paso and up to Ft. Collins....
WHAT ABOUT KREBS?
The University of New Mexico athletic department has seen one debacle after another, the most recent being the disastrous tenure of departed football coach Mike Locksley. Suprisingly, there has not been much heat put on athletic director Paul Krebs to take a hike. But there is some, as seen in this letter to the Daily Lobo:
It would be an understatement to say that UNM has suffered nationwide humiliation over the past three years...Paying a coach nearly $1 million a year who cannot even muster a single win is ridiculous. Why did Paul Krebs stand by this loser so bloody long? Mike Locksley’s 2-26 record over two-plus years was not only abysmal, it was unnecessary. Yet Krebs refused to fire him. Locksley’s totally unprofessional demeanor on and off the field will reflect poorly on UNM for years. Krebs has shown a monumental inability to recognize failure, even though most UNM supporters did so long ago. Before UNM lets Krebs make yet another million-dollar mistake, why not remove Krebs?....
Dem political consultant Sterling Fluharty comes with these fast facts in his "SWPS Sentinel":
--SUSANA PAC raised $557,000 from April to October of 2011. Their closing balance was $301,000. These funds will support legislative candidates who back the agenda of Governor Susana Martinez.
--In Albuquerque 31 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 have registered as Independents.Voters from age 25 to 34 are registered as Independents at 30 percent. Voters aged 50 to 64 are registered as Independents at only 14 percent. Only 9 percent of Albuquerque voters age 65 or older are registered as Independents. With such a wide disparity between generations, the increasing numbers of Independents in New Mexico could be largely due to a generational phenomenon, as opposed to a reaction against partisan bickering.
THE BOTTOM LINES
The campaign of ABQ GOP congressional candidate Dan Lewis says:
The campaign has hired Noell Saur as the Finance Director. Noell was Finance Director for the Jon Barela campaign for congress and has also worked for the New Mexico Republican Party, Senator Pete Domenici, and Congresswoman Heather Wilson.
Lewis and rival Janice Arnold-Jones have both been struggling on the fund-raising front....
And from the campaign of ABQ Dem congressional candidate Marty Chavez:
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 611 endorsed former Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez in his race for the House of Representatives in New Mexico’s First Congressional District.
Early labor support in the congressional contest has been going to Chavez rival Eric Griego.
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