Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Education Of Texas: No Role Model For Us, Plus: Official Betting Odds On Susana's VP Chances, And: More Petionitis, Plus: UNM's Big Football Fumble 

Governor Susana is fond of pointing to Texas as an oasis of job creation, but you don't hear her talk about the Lonestar State's education system. Here's why:

Texas lawmakers cut public education financing by roughly $5.4 billion to balance the state’s two-year budget during the last legislative session, with the cuts taking effect this school year and next. The budget reductions that districts large and small have had to make have transformed school life in a host of ways--increasing class sizes, reducing services and supplies and thinning the ranks of teachers, custodians, librarians and others, school administrators said. 

If Texas is so good at creating jobs, as Martinez argues, why are they savaging their education budget? Well, maybe all those jobs they are creating don't pay that much.

Martinez signed a state budget this year that calls for a $90 million increase for education, after several years of cuts due to the recession.


Of course, it is energy royalties that will finance a nice chunk of that state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, but it's not written in stone. Oil is booming along, but natural gas prices still can't seem to find a bottom. That has wreaked economic havoc in gas-rich San Juan County. If prices continue on the down escalator, the state budget could feel the impact. We're closing in on the $2 mark for gas and the bears are warning it could tank even more dramatically:

So far, efforts to limit production have barely made a dent. Unless the pace of production declines sharply or demand picks up significantly this summer, analysts say the nation's storage facilities could reach their limits by fall. That would cause the price of natural gas, which has been halved over the past year, to nosedive. Citigroup commodities analyst Anthony Yuen says the price of natural gas - now $2.08 per 1,000 cubic feet - could briefly fall below $1.

Low natural gas prices are good for consumers,  but the energy gurus say for every buck the price declines, NM loses about $100 million in annual revenue. Some of the hurt is cushioned by the sale of more expensive liquefied gas, but Santa Fe has to watch that gas price like a hawk watching its prey.


That Susana will be picked as Mitt Romney's running mate? We've got the goods:

The political oddsmakers at Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker that takes bets on things such as the veepstakes, released odds last week that made Mr. Rubio the clear favorite at 2-1, followed by Mr. Christie at 5-1 and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez at 11-2."

Susana is doing what just about all potential VP candidates do--saying she won't do it, can't do it and doesn't want to do it. Which of course means she is ready to go. But she's still a long shot. Another Hispanic politico--Florida Senator Marc Rubio--is the favorite veep possibility at Paddy Power.


Could the fury over the increase in student fees at UNM put pressure on new UNM President Robert Frank to clean out the leadership of the Athletic Department? It could. Fees are going up $50 a head to help cover the $2 million deficit, most of which can be attributed to the Lobo football program. A Senior Alligator makes the case for a shake-up:

UNM President Schmidly says student fees need to be increased to pay for the “transition” in the Lobo football program. Athletic Director Paul Krebs says student fees for athletics are the lowest in the conference. Schmidly fails to point out that it was Krebs who is responsible for this “transition” by screwing up in letting football coach Rocky Liong get away and then erring by hiring Coach Locksley and then failing to fire him when it became obvious he needed to. 

Krebs and the ABQ Journal fail to point out that while the student fees are the lowest in the conference, Krebs’ salary is the highest. Will Krebs and Schmidly help pay in some way for this “transition”? I doubt it. I’m surprised Krebs and Schmidly haven’t thrown out another creative semantic term like “stakeholder” to describe how we all must pay for this “transition” which I am most certain we will.

It wasn't that long ago that the blog suggested that Lobo basketball coach Steve Alford be made athletic director. Perhaps that's not realistic, but new UNM President Robert Frank has the perfect opportunity to restore balance to UNM athletics when he takes the helm later this year. Again, the question hanging in the air is "will he?"


About it being difficult for candidates to gather good signatures for their nominating peitions as a Taos County candidate blogged in here Monday, reader Michelle Meaders says:

I got pages of signatures for Martin Heinrich and others by going to events and public places. Taos county doesn’t have any Democratic political meetings, senior centers, public speeches, museum events, schools or colleges, athletic events happening between October 1 and March 20? 

 If they won’t let you inside, stand outside, or ask in advance. If they don’t know who she is, give them a palm card or flyer that tells about her. Have someone give a house party for her. Signature-gathering for candidates has been going on for years all over NM. Lots of voters will be familiar with it, especially primary voters, who are what you want to reach anyway.  It helps build your campaign and mailing list.  Government offices need to be told that this is a legal requirement for candidates. Do we need an local ordinance or state law that they have to allow it?

And on all the challenges going on of signatures being turned in by the legislative candidates, reader Jim McCuaghey writes:

What's going on in New Mexico can remind you of how Obama was first elected to Illinois Senate. He challenged the other 4 primary candidates signatures. The four were tossed out of the election and Obama ran unopposed. Essentially judges decided that election, it's not just "putting a needle in." These things have real consequences. 

And as we await today's decision from the New Mexico Supreme Court on one aspect of the petition mess--the failure of candidates to list the number of the district they are seeking--Doug Echols, an attorney for San Juan County, blogs in with this:

Hey Joe, I was one of the lawyers who was involved in nominating petitions in the last election. Were you aware that it is a misdemeanor to knowingly circulate a petition without all of the required information? This is to protect those who sign from being asked to sign a petition without full and complete disclosure from the potential candidate about the office sought. 

In Judicial Elections, the races are at-large but for specific spots. Before a voter signs a petition doesn’t he or she have the right to know which position is being sought? Heck, you could be signing a petition for someone who ends up running against your brother-in law. The rules are really simple: Fill out the Petition before you circulate it. Remember, that by statute, duplicate signatures never count and that you must be  a registered voter, living in the right district and of the right party to sign. Its OK not to worry about nicknames or missing middle initials if the person can be identified from the voting records. Be interesting to see what the Supremes do!

Thanks for that, Doug. We agree that the voter should be informed of the number of the district that a candidate is seeking, we just don't think the remedy should be the judicial death penalty. We believe the Supreme Court today will also see it that way.

UPDATE--The Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon ruled that all the candidates challenged for leaving the number of their districts off their nominating petitions will be allowed on the ballot. The judges said the law was ambiguous.


ABQ Dem congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham will do an early release today of her 1st quarter fund-raising. Here's what she will report:

About  $344,000 cash on hand and about $205,000 raised for the quarter. A campaign supporter points out that Lujan Grisham is very close to the amount that Heinrich had on hand after the first quarter in 2008 ($342,422) and raised ($200,782.) Heinrich beat Lujan Grisham and Rebecca Vigil-Giron for the 2008 Dem congressional nod.

With $344,000 in the bank, Lujan-Grisham is going to be able to finance a decent TV campaign. Still to report their numbers which are due Sunday at midnight to the FEC are hopefuls Marty Chavez and Eric Griego.


We had an advance look at the first quarter fund-raising numbers for Dem US Senate candidate Martin Heinrich a week or so ago, now the official totals the official totals are in:

Heinrich raised $490,000 in the first quarter and had $1.6 million in cash on hand as of the end of March...This is the last quarterly report before Heinrich and State Auditor Hector Balderas face off in the June 5 Democratic primary, which Heinrich is favored to win. Balderas has yet to announce his quarterly numbers, which are due to be postmarked to the Federal Election Commission by midnight on Sunday.

If Hector doesn't report more than a million bucks in cash on hand, his best bet is for a TV buy that mildly contrasts him with Heinrich, but doesn't hit too hard. That way he positions himself for the upset, but doesn't anger the Heinrich base which he will need in the general. As for Heinrich, this Dem nomination is his to lose. He needs early TV that raises his stature, assures New Mexicans he is qualified for the Senate and will be a doer, not a back bencher.


Susana is the Governor and Jay McCleskey is her chief political adviser and runs her Susana PAC, although on some days critics say the titles are reversible. The news with a Santa Fe dateline:

Gov. Susana Martinez's political action committee has raised about $335,000 in the past six months. The governor's political organization called Susana PAC released a fundraising summary on Monday showing it had cash-on-hand of about $295,000 last week. The PAC spent nearly $342,000 from early October through April 2.

And that's not all. There's the Guv's separate campaign fund for her 2014 re-elect:

Martinez's gubernatorial campaign committee reported a cash balance of nearly $467,000 last week. Martinez is not up for re-election until 2014, but her campaign committee has raised nearly $232,000 since last October.

Just a reminder--none of the contributors to these funds influences public policy in any way. Really. No impact at all. I mean, Big Bill told us that, didn't he?  


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