Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Flat Fed Budget Will Keep Lid On State Growth, Plus: NM And Romney, Udall And Defense, And Glowing Over Susana 

We're headed out to Washington today and we don't think we'll find a New Mexico congressional delegation jumping for joy over President Obama's budget, but they should not be too depressed either--at least for the immediate future.

While Los Alamos Labs will take a funding hit over a research lab that has been widely criticized as a bottomless money pit, Senator Jeff Bingaman reports that total state funding for the Department of Energy which oversees Los Alamos and Sandia Labs should hold steady:

While the overall federal budget is slated for significant deficit reductions in the president’s new budget request for fiscal year 2013, the DOE portion of the budget would grow by 3.4 percent over FY 2012. U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman said DOE investments in New Mexico would remain at their approximate current levels of $4.4 billion.

Again, a flat budget from the feds means a giant portion of our economy is not going to experiencing any growth in 2013. And that is now becoming a trend. The overall DOE budget is going up, but we don't get a cut? Not good......


The Federal government is the major economic engine in the city and that's why this news from Sandia National Labs is worrisome:

Sandia spent $920.7 million on contract related payments for goods and services, contract employees and travel and purchase order related expenses. The laboratories did nearly $1 billion worth of business in the previous fiscal year, 2010, with $499.3 million paid to New Mexico firms, about $329.7 million of which was paid to small businesses.

That's about an 8% decline in contract spending or about $80 million. Another reason the metro economy continues to stagnate and why the pressure is on our congressional delegation to stop the bleeding. While the labs are not cutting staff, they are cutting contracts and we're feeling it in the city's private sector that depends on lab spending.

If the far right of her party were not so monomaniacal about government spending of any kind, we might say this is an issue for Republican Senate contender Heather Wilson to tackle. She argues she would be a strong Senator for the defense and national security establishment here.


And the state budget that is headed to the Guv for the budget year that starts July 1 totals $5.6 billion, but that is far below the well over $6 billion budget we had a couple of years ago in the glory days of the bull market.

Flat federal and state government spending mean no big boost in government employment and therefore a continued sluggish commercial and residential real estate market in the months ahead. Retail sales will also be held in check, meaning revenues into the state and city of ABQ are going to be modest.


On our pointing out that the state Medicaid budget under Governor Martinez continues to grow, Nick Estes, deputy policy director for NM Voices for Children, chimes in:

We agree that the Legislature and Governor for two years have dealt pretty fairly with the Medicaid budget, but we have told the administration and the Legislature that it's time to start enrolling kids again--the enrollment has been flat for about a year and a half. We are hoping the Senate will increase the Medicaid budget somewhat over the House version.

The House approved budgets calls for spending $905 million for Medicaid, an increase of $38 million or 4.4 percent for the budget year that starts July 1. Much of that money is matched three to one by the feds. That gives the state $3 billion in Medicaid funding. In a population of 2 million, nearly 600,000 children and low-income residents receive Medicaid.


With the state Public Regulation Commission (PRC), a constant tragic-comedy in which the commissioners compete to outdo themselves in bizarre behavior, why are the PRC reform bills stalled in Santa Fe? From a Senior Alligator making the rounds at the Roundhouse:

House Speaker Ben Lujan went far in life without benefit of a formal education. His opposition to qualifications for public office is to give the same opportunity to others. Therefore, I believe, Senate opposition to qualifications for PRC commissioners is a farewell gift to the Speaker. There will be another day to take up qualifications, but not to express farewell to the Speaker. íAdios Amigo!

Hmm. Commissioners who are qualified? What would we do for free entertainment?


We noted a recent legislative achievement of Dem Senator Tom Udall and it didn't take long for some readers to throw counter punches. One of them is John Rogers of Tijeras:

Joe, You forgot to include one other truly stunning achievement of Senator Udall: He voted for the National Defense Authorization Act. The Act allows US citizens to be arrested and detained indefinitely. Even the ACLU "believes that any military detention of American citizens or others within the United States is unconstitutional and illegal". Allegedly (I just love that word) Senator Udall took an oath to defend and protect the US Constitution. So just which part of the Constitution is the Senator defending and protecting?

Udall's office came with this response:

Sen. Udall is concerned that the detainee provisions in the bill do not explicitly state that the Constitution’s due process rights protect U.S. Citizens from being detained indefinitely without trial. While the Supreme Court has upheld these protections, Senator Udall believes it is better to unambiguously write them into the law. During debate on the bill, he voted to approve four separate amendments to beef up those provisions and while one was ultimately adopted, he is still working make the law crystal clear...Udall helped introduce bipartisan legislation to clarify that lawful U.S. citizens cannot be detained without being charged or granted a trial under any circumstance.


Probable GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney has some New Mexico assistance on board. Santa Fe Dr. J.R. Damron is the state chair for Romney.

He's perhaps best remembered for a short-lived and ill-fated run for the 2006 GOP Guv nomination. He withdrew from the race shortly after winning the June primary and was replaced by John Dendahl, the fiery former GOP chairman. Damron was labeled as too weak to take on Dem Governor Bill Richardson, but Dendahl went on to suffer the worst defeat in state gubernatorial history so it looks as if history vindicated the good doctor at least some.

Damron also made an unsuccessful bid for the 2010 GOP lieutenant governor nod.

He seems a good fit for Romney who is favored by the party establishment. Damron also appealed more to the business and country club elements of the GOP rather than its more activist and very conservative wing.


There are four Dems and one independent on the New Mexico Supreme Court--not five Dems. Say what? Well, lifelong Dem and Chief Justice Charles Daniels changed his registration to independent, probably to deflect some of the partisan hits he's been taking since becoming a justice. In a first draft Monday we said the court was all Dem.


As for Governor Martinez being picked by Romney as his Veep running mate, readers continue to weigh in even if it is the longest of long shots. Ernie Bean writes:

Hey Joe, For Martinez to be selected by Romney she would have to be cleared of any fault in the $22 million awarded Stephan Slevin. Slevin was held for 22 months in the Dona Ana County jail on a DWI while driving a stolen car charge. Martinez was the district attorney at the time and seems to have forgotten about the guy who suffered from mental and medical problems while being held. Others have made the same claim of being held for long periods of time. Assistant DA A. Amy Orlando said Slevin's time in jail was not out of the normal..

Yes, the vetting process for vice-president will be more intense than it was down here for governor. Remember back during the campaign how we were the sole news source in the state to wonder about the immigration status of Martinez's family? We were attacked for it by the Guv's political operatives, only to see the story later burst into the national headlines when Martinez became Guv.


In case you think the politicos beating up on us on occasion influences our coverage, it doesn't. For a certain number of years we've been presenting the good with the bad. For example, here's a review of Susana from the conservative National Review that is so glowing, it might cause her most ardent fan to blush.

She is principled and pragmatic. She has a sure sense of philosophy but is also keen on the details. She expresses some quite hard-line views in a lovely feminine voice. She knows how to talk to people who think they’re allergic to Republicans. She’s a lawyer who is exceptionally business-friendly. She both advocates and exemplifies the American Dream. Yes, you can forgive people their excitement over Susana Martinez.

We hope Susana told this guy she's married. I mean with that kind of head-over-heels love, First Gent Chuck Franco might get jealous.

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