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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Still Flatlined: Local Gov't Budgets Stagnate, Plus: UNM Walks Back Sandia Management Plan, Nate Gentry's One Word Answer On Congress Run, And: Mary Herrera On Being Cleared By AG 

Welcome in to our Wednesday blog. Here's what has our attention...

We're looking in all the nooks and crannies but still don't see many signs of the state economy starting to bounce, In fact, the city of Santa Fe reports it will have a flat budget for the coming fiscal year, joining the city of ABQ in that category. And then there's the flat Department of Energy budget proposed for Sandia Labs for next year.

Tax collections in the capital city are down. And it's no wonder. ABQ Dem State Senator Tim Keller says there are currently 3,000 vacancies in state government. He is urging the Guv to start filling some of them. That would give a boost to Santa Fe which is about to feel the impact of lower consumer spending because of hundreds of layoffs at Los Alamos Labs.

Surely, even the most conservative analysts have to agree that state government has undergone a dramatic pruning in this bear market. Critics will argue that the executive branch is now actually starving the state.

The small government crowd always argued if we slashed government jobs we would grow them in the private sector. But it hasn't turned out that way, has it?

SOUND FAMILIAR?

This will sound familiar to New Mexicans:

Spain's population fell last year for the first time in decades, as immigrants left the country amid a major economic crisis, officials say. The National Statistic Institute (NSI) says the number of residents dropped by almost 206,000 to 47.1 million--the decline entirely accounted for by foreigners. Immigrants from Ecuador and Colombia showed the biggest fall. The figures do not take into account many Spaniards who have left in search of work but are still on the census. The statistics agency recorded Spain's first population drop since the regular census began in the 1990s.

The economic woes are not as pronounced here, but New Mexico has also seen a contraction in population growth--and for the obvious reason--no jobs.

LOOK AT THEM

Sure, Santa Fe has some scofflaws, but they're pikers compared to this:

After two New York State legislators were charged in unrelated corruption scandals this month, more than 80 percent of voters say they believe that additional lawmakers are likely to be accused of ethical malfeasance in the near future, according to a poll released on Monday.


WALKING IT BACK

UNM has been severely scored on the blog over its announced plans to have a larger management role in the running of Sandia National Labs. Now there is some walking back by UNM President Bob Frank:

Frank said  that media reports that UNM was interested in the management contract for Sandia National Laboratories were “overstated.” “It’s not our business, and shouldn’t be our business...We’re not going to come in and manage that contract..”

The concern being that UNM having a major role in Sandia could make it a dumping ground for political appointees. And if you've been around here any length of time, that is not an "overstated" concern. The labs management is also best left to the national defense companies because of its dependence on DC funding.

WHOSE RUNNING?

We asked ABQ GOP State Rep. Nate Gentry point blank the other day if he was going to run for the ABQ congressional seat held by Dem Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham. His one word answer: "Nope."

That leaves a pretty big hole for the R's to fill. They have no announced candidate. There is a tea party type toying with the race, but that would not be a serious challenge to Grisham.

With Gentry out, Grisham, who scored 59% of the vote in her maiden outing in 2012, could find herself getting something close to a free ride in '14.

AVOID THE CHALLENGE

Actually, with Bernalillo County getting increasingly blue, Grisham may have to worry more about a challenge from within her own party--not a serious one from the R's. The same goes for northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. This letter the two lawmakers sent to President Obama on the key issue of Social Security should serve to quiet any disquiet within their party's ranks:

...In New Mexico, more than 61,000 individuals rely on Social Security’s guaranteed benefit. Reducing these benefits through a chained CPI asks our seniors to bear the brunt of efforts to reduce the deficit despite the fact that Social Security has generated budget surpluses for thirty years and currently has sufficient assets to handle 100 percent of its promised benefits for the next two decades without any changes. As the legislative process continues, we encourage you to reconsider Congressional Republicans’ call to reduce Social Security benefits through chained CPI and work with members of Congress to strengthen this program that is a vital component to a dignified retirement for millions of Americans

WHERE'S WEH?

Earlier this year, former NM GOP Chairman Allen Weh said he was looking at a run for the 2014 GOP US Senate nomination and the right to take on Dem Senator Tom Udall. But he's been quiet since and no other names are floating for the R's. If Weh doesn't get in, who will?

MARY'S VINDICATION

Mary Herrera
Former Democratic Secretary of State Mary Herrera writes to us of Attorney General Gary King's decision not to pursue criminal charges against her after a near three year investigation:

(The charges were) politically motivated and my accusers thought they would use the Whistle Blower Act to possibly win money from the state. However, they are finding out that  the state risk management and personnel departments contract with some very good firms to fight these kind of  false charges.

For the record, I have been busy helping others get elected to office and I will be getting involved in races for 2014. I also want to state since I was accused of all these false charges, I got no support from the Democratic Party. I was actually treated well and respected by many Republican senators and state representatives. Many of them did not judge me as many Democratic elected officials did.

I hope you will mention the letter from the Attorney General and also that I was never questioned or interviewed by the FBI. Unfortunately, during the investigation I was unable to speak much about a personnel issue in order to protect taxpayers from a major lawsuit. In the long run it cost me my reputation and the secretary of state position. Thankfully, I have strong faith and I am not done!

Herrera lost her bid for a second term as secretary of state in 2010 to Republican Dianna Duran.

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