Friday, September 19, 2014

Battle Lines Over Early Childhood Proposal Are Drawn Anew As Public Voices Overwhelming Support, Plus: AG Race Pops Onto Political Radar  

The proposal to tap the state's immense Land Grant Permanent Fund (now $14 billion) to invest more in early childhood programs is polling off the charts, and that sets up yet another battle over the measure in the 2015 legislative session.

The ABQ Journal survey shows 66% of likely voters surveyed are in favor and only 24% oppose. The proposal would go to voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. Even a vigorous negative campaign against the measure would face long odds given the 66% support (surprisingly, a majority of Republicans support it).

Also, the paper polled "likely voters." Pollster Brian Sanderoff says a survey of the larger pool of registered voters would probably find the proposal garnering even higher support as those voters are not as conservative.

The poll comes the same week as more bleak news arrived about the poverty rate in NM. The Census Bureau says it has ballooned to nearly 22% of the state's population, ranking us 49th in the USA:

Census figures indicate that 21.9 percent of New Mexico residents lived in poverty last year, roughly 22,000 more people than in 2012. That’s a jump from 20.8 percent. Nationally, the rate was 15.8 percent in 2013 compared to 15.9 percent the year before. Only Mississippi had a poverty rate higher than New Mexico in 2013 with 24 percent of that state’s residents living in poverty.

The proposal to tap the Permanent Fund for $150 million a year for ten years for very early childhood requires a simple majority in both the House and Senate and then it's on to the voters. The Governor--who opposes it--has no veto power over such an amendment,

The poll will put further pressure on the austerity hawks in Santa Fe led by Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith who has been instrumental in blocking the proposal for several legislative sessions. This poll gives plenty of cover to any of Smith's fellow Martinez Democrats who want to change sides. The issue also could be a potential problem in the June '16 primary election, giving Senate Dems opposed to the measure another reason to rethink their positions.

Senator Martin Heinrich recently threw his weight behind the measure, the first member of the state's congressional delegation to do so. Perhaps the poll will influence others in DC to join him.

No doubt the distressed economic climate is influencing the public's view. The long stagnation shows no signs of abating and the politicians are not offering any short-term solutions. This is the one major proposal on the table that gives hope that the state can start the process of a long turnaround. ABQ Dem state Senator Michael Padilla says he will be the major sponsor of the measure in the '15 session. He says he is buoyed by the poll and "going to get this done."


Senior Alligator analysis of Campaign '14 in light of the early childhood poll:

Imagine what this election would be like if the Democratic Legislature had put early childhood Education on the ballot--instead of letting John Arthur Smith kill it. Or if the Democratic candidates for Governor had made it a real focal point of their primary campaigns, as opposed to an afterthought that got ticked off with the usual laundry list about solar power, wind farms, "green" jobs and saving horses.

And another of the Gators:

Scotland votes "no" and decides to stay in the Untied Kingdom but New Mexico can't vote on funding early childhood education. Please remind me which country is supposed to be more democratic--the one with a President or one with a Queen?


It's the Republican contender who was first up on TV in the race for attorney general, but only by a day. Susan Riedel comes with a spot that works to build ID by telling viewers how to pronounce her name (not Riddle) after which she launches into a traditional tough on crime approach.

Riedel is a former prosecutor with ties to Susana and a current district court judge in Las Cruces. She has a steep hill to climb in her race against Democratic attorney general nominee and State Auditor Hector Balderas. He will hit the airwaves today with this ad. It positions him as a family man who will protect children from sex offenders. The latest finance reports show Riedel with $178,000 in cash on hand compared to Balderas' $822,000. The last R to be elected AG was Hal Stratton in 1986.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

E-mail your news and comments. (jmonahan@ix.netcom.com)

Interested in reaching New Mexico's most informed audience? Advertise here.      

(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2014. Not for reproduction without permission of the author
website design by limwebdesign