Friday, February 17, 2012
Sputtering To An End: 30 Days In Santa Fe, Plus: Berry's Paseo Win, And: The Big Picture in New Mexico After This Session
It was Republican State Senator "Lightning Rod" Adair who came with the money quote as the 2012 New Mexico legislative session sputtered to an end:
"The biggest do-nothing year I've ever seen. We now, habitually, especially in the years of a Republican governor...come here and do nothing. And everybody knows the reason that is done is to try to prevent any achievements by the Republican governor. It's the very worst of motives," Adair said after lawmakers adjourned.
Well, Roswell's Rod has it half right. Some Dems do enjoy thwarting the GOP Guv, but it's her job to outfox them. That doesn't mean adopting an all or nothing attitude but playing the legislative game this former district attorney seems to hold in contempt. But the art of the deal is what makes the game clock tick. And, as we have blogged a number of times, "If you don't deal, you die."
Need proof? Look at how Republican Susana and the Dem-controlled Legislature compromised on the $5.6 billion budget. It sailed through and it isn't half bad. She noted that the gridlock in Santa Fe is nothing like that in Washington, DC where I am writing to you from as I finish up a political visit. And she's right. Getting a complete budget on time here is a figment of the past.
If Martinez had applied the same tactics to her education reforms and her bill to repeal the measure letting undocumented immigrants have driver's licenses, she might have walked away with some results.
The Guv's ideological zeal regarding these hot-button issues is understandable. It represents the often conservative views of her base followers, but not the New Mexican mainstream. She was elected in reaction to the excess of the previous Democratic administration, not on a conservative platform. Time is running short for her to realize that.
She has realized her political standing in negotiating with Dems two state budgets in her term, but fails to realize it in just about every other major legislative battle.
If Susana is playing to the national crowd and standing tough on everything but the budget because she is hoping to be the 2012 GOP Veep pick, so be it. That will all be over in August.
We will then see as she begins her final two years in office if she is ready to play for real. As Senator Adair pointed out, her foes are more than willing to thrown her to the mat. They will keep doing so until she comes up with some new moves.
The latest AP wrap on the session is here. And here is is a review of what happened to major issues.
ABQ Mayor RJ Berry was one of the big winners of the legislative session, Lawmakers approved $30 million in funds to rebuild the busy Paseo Del Norte and I-25 interchange. The mayor botched the October election dealing with Paseo but he has made up for it by making his case in Santa Fe. We assume the Guv will approve of the funds and laud her fellow Republican. Now Berry will work on getting the Paseo rebuild shovel ready by October 2013--the date of the next mayoral election.
THE BIG PICTURE
Let's finish up this week with some big picture thinking about the state's future. The death of a certain piece of legislation prompts the following thoughts:
There's something Santa Fe agrees on no matter who is in charge--there will be no all-out war against poverty. There will be skirmishes, maybe a few fist fights, but the body politic--and perhaps the population--simply does not have the stomach to face off an enemy that is hundreds of years old and has the staying power of a cockroach.
The latest surrender came as State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, aka, "Dr. No," killed a planned constitutional amendment that would have asked voters if they would care to distribute additional funds from the state's $10 billion Permanent Fund for childhood education and development.
New Mexico has ranked at or near the bottom of the cellar in childhood poverty, child abuse, drug abuse, spousal abuse, literacy rates and teen pregnancy. (Yeah, Happy Valentine's Week to you, too). The list is overwhelming and seemingly defies solution. And there are no solutions--short term. But this constitutional amendment would have taken a stab at putting us on a long-term course to reverse our woeful ways.
We understand Dr. No's trepidation. As a lifelong fiscal conservative you expect him to squash any spending that could be construed as a gamble. But the good Doctor and his fellow conservatives in the Department of Finance, Legislative Fiance Committee and the Governor's office have a cupboard that is intellectually bare. They tell us what won't work, but they don't tell us what does.
Tax cuts won't pull us out. Selling the state jet won't do it. Shrinking government even more has nothing to do with the social condition crisis. And "doing more with less" is an oxymoron when dealing with a population that needs intervention, not benign neglect.
New Mexico will only muddle along in the decades ahead if it doesn't start taking some chances, or as Steve Jobs put it, "Think Different."
Thirty years ago in a state of a little over a million people, the dilemma was much less threatening. But today the state has over 2 million residents and the ranks of the ill-educated have grown by leaps and bonds as has the accompanying dysfunction. Just check out any edition of the 10 p.m news.
For a myriad of reasons New Mexico and its political class has been unable to summon the will to start a full-court press against the most obvious challenges it faces. The failure of this amendment--or even a more modest version--says we're still not ready to go to war.
This is the home of New Mexico politics.
Reporting to you this week from Washington, D.C. and Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.
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