Monday, May 20, 2013

The Credibility Gap Is Back--In DC And Santa Fe; Tax Package Tar Baby Gets More Sticky, Plus: Ex-GOP Guv Carruthers Breaks From Administration On Tax Policy, And: First ABQ Mayoral Poll Has Berry with Commanding Lead; We've Got The Analysis 

Clifford & Barela (Journal)
If you're of a certain age you probably remember the "Credibility Gap." It was the moniker given to Washington's tortured and tangled 1960's and 70's explanations for what was going on with the Vietnam War.  Well, the Credibility Gap is back.

Washington is scampering to explain a trio of scandals. In Santa Fe the administration and key legislators are trying to separate themselves from the political tar baby known as the 2013 legislative tax package. We'll let others opine on how they're doing in DC, but in Santa Fe they're still stuck.

The latest victim: Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela. With a straight face he told the Legislative Finance Committee that if the controversial tax package had not been passed in the final moments of the '13 session, two ABQ companies with 1,500 jobs would have fled New Mexico. The kicker? Barela refused to tell lawmakers and taxpayers what companies were supposedly poised to hit the highway if the tax package died.

Well, we can be quite certain it wasn't the moving van companies that were threatening to leave. They're doing banner business here.

Barela's gambit came as a clean-up effort after another cabinet secretary got bogged in the tar. Tom Clifford, head of Department of Finance, was forced to apologize last week for misinformation he doled out to legislators about the tax cut package in the final moments of the session.

And then there was State Senator John Arthur Smith moaning like a summertime version of Zozobra that anyone who opposed the corporate tax cut just doesn't know what they are talking about.

The people in opposition to an income tax concession by any means have absolutely no idea what they're talking about...

Please forgive us, Senator Smith. We haven't had the benefit of attending the Deming School of Economics but as you are so fond of telling us, you can't have it all in this life...


Garrey Carruthers
But it isn't only those of us in the peanut gallery who are questioning Santa Fe's mastery of the dismal science. Former GOP Governor Garrey Carruthers ('87-'91), recently named as president of NMSU, broke with Barela and the Martinez Democrats and said tax incentives for certain sectors can chase away others.

He also did not shy away from pointing out that New Mexico is the only state in the western USA not getting back on its economic feet. And he also struck a chord that your blog has been sounding for a number of years:

As for business development, he said the state would profit from a thorough analysis of its workforce.
For instance, Spaceport America has no plan for the precise workforce it needs to excel in space travel and transportation, Carruthers said. The Spaceport in Sierra County is a $209 million venture built by tax dollars.

That has us harkening back to our first blog of the new year of 2006, when Carruthers talked about the growing achievement gap between Anglo students and their Hispanic and Native American counterparts. He warned then that as the state grew more majority-minority educational disparity would be problem that could deliver a body blow to the state economy. From everything we see around us seven years later,, that day has arrived.

Garrey is not of the Tea Party crowd, but a member of that nearly extinct club known as "moderate Republican." Is he going to be emerge as a leader of a new school of Republican thought that broadens the parties economic message beyond tax cutting? As president of NMSU, he has the platform.

Come on in, Garrey. The players have changed since '86 but as they say the game is the same...


What seems like an outburst of arrogance and defensiveness by policy makers and certain legislators comes as the state's economy continues to be redefined downward.

There is a glimmer of good news in the latest jobless report. It showed a wee bit of a pick up in year-over-year employment growth in April. That's a five year first.  But--and there's always a but when it comes to jobs these days---we continue to lose what tend to be the higher paying jobs in professional and business services, while adding jobs in the lower paying leisure industry.

Then there's the issue of the unemployment rate continuing to sink because people have dropped out of the work force and/or left the state--not because we are on the cusp of a robust recovery.

Speaking of leaving the state, that's what Governor Martinez does with increasing frequency, raising the millions she will spend on her re-election bid next year.  Well, she isn'y going to raise that kind of money around here. But is she even going to need it? The Democrats have put up a hapless opposition and many are so demoralized, divided and desperate that they are talking up ther chances of 2018, skipping right over '14.

They're right when they say politics can change as quick as the weather. In this--their not so merry month of May--the Dems need the equivalent of a snow storm.


Mayor Berry
The first public poll of the 2013 ABQ mayor's race confirms what political insiders on both sides of the aisle have been saying--the race in the early going is Mayor Richard Berry's to lose. However, despite a commanding 59 to 17 percent lead over Pete Dinelli, Republican Berry still has to keep his eye on the ball. The city is heavy Dem and a major misstep or unexpected development could shift public opinion. But the incumbent couldn't ask for a much better start in the SurveyUSA automatic phone poll conducted for KOB-TV May 14 through 17 among 501 likely voters.

Retired APD police sergeant and Republican Paul Heh polled 9% and 15% of respondents were undecided.

From SurveyUSA:

Berry runs strong among all groups within the city, but particularly among whites, where he leads by almost 6:1, and among Republicans, where he leads by 11:1. Dinelli has a foothold among seniors, among liberals and in Southeast Albuquerque.

Albuquerque's economy is first on the mind of the city's likely voters. 44% name the economy as their most important issue, followed far back by crime at 18% and police integrity at 17%.

Residents have confidence in the city's police department. 63% of adults have either total or some confidence in the department, compared to 36% who have not very much confidence or no confidence. 

A candidate must get 50% of the vote in the October mayoral election to avoid a run-off between the top two contenders. This poll shows it will be Dinelli's job to keep Berry under 50% and force that run-off.

With a 40 point lead in the opening innning, some may be tempted to write the race off, so we asked for a Senior Alligator to tell us Dinelli can get the race more in play:

This is a very good poll for Berry. He has a forty point lead over his closest competitor and support across the city and the political spectrum. But there are cracks that ought to concern the mayor.

First, his poll numbers may be softening some. In a survey for the ABQ Journal last October Berry garnered an approval rating of 68%. But his opponents keep his re-elect number below 60% in the SurveyUSA. That's probably due to fellow Republican Paul Heh being in the race. But it also makes the likelihood of a run-off more likely. With 99% name ID Berry's numbers aren't going up. They'll go down from here.

Second is the economy. It's the number one issue for voters and it's where GOP businessman Berry is most vulnerable. If Dinelli is able to consolidate the Democratic vote by hammering the jobs issue and Heh continues to siphon-off Republican voters, Berry's numbers could erode further.

The mayor is also sure to recall that at this time four years ago he was at 14% in the polls--and we all know how that race turned out.

Berry is the first Republican Mayor in ABQ since the 1980's. Dinelli ran for mayor once before in 1985. Heh is making his first bid for elective office. A poll of 501 likely voters has a margin of error of about 4.4%.

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