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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Feds And Us: Campaign Ad Raises Big Picture Question: A "Grand Bargain" To Get NM Moving? Plus: Why Winter Waxed Brooks, And: More On Heinrich And His Island Stay 

Tom Udall comes with a new TV spot about the state's national security complex that seems on firmer ground than his first foray onto that territory. Udall, opposed for re-election by Republican Allen Weh, highlights a small business owner who has a coffee shop across from ABQ's Kirtland Air Force Base. The owner says he is glad Sen. Udall is "keeping our bases strong. We're one of hundreds of New Mexico businesses that rely on them."

Udall's campaign accompanied the ad with a lengthy news release detailing the Dem senator's work on Kirtland funding as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

This ad, unlike that first national security spot, does not mention Los Alamos Labs or Sandia National Labs. Udall's first ad drew raised eyebrows when he said he protected Los Alamos funding even though there have been hundreds of layoffs there in recent years.

Funding for Kirtland and Sandia is steady. Congressional staffers in Washington tell us that Sandia's nuclear weapons mission and budget appears secure looking out over the next eight years. The Los Alamos outlook is more muddled. Still, major budget increases or a hiring sprees do not appear to be in store for the bases or the labs. Just holding the funding steady is a challenge. Udall says he has met that challenge by preventing "tea-party sequestration cuts."

THE FEDS AND US

All this takes us back to the macro issue with NM federal funding. Agencies across the board have been downsized since the Great Recession struck:

Federal spending (in NM) on grants, direct payments, contracts, loans and insurance totaled $18 billion in FY13, down from $22.2 billion the previous year, according to the federal website usaspending.gov. That spending peaked in 2009 at $22.7 billion. . . All federal contracts in the state totaled $6.7 billion in FY13, down from $7.2 billion the previous year, and down from a high of $7.6 billion in FY09.

Can New Mexico reclaim federal funding in the years ahead or is the development of a stronger private sector the only alternative? The answer is both. A congressional delegation with more seniority may have a shot at getting a larger share of the federal pie. The state could not and will not reject that money as a bane of "federal dependency."

A GRAND BARGAIN

As for boosting the private sector,  we see the conversation as being too top down. Innovate ABQ and other well-intentioned efforts hope to woo entrepreneurs who will boost the economy. But the problem is the massive swath of the population that is not prepared for the jobs these entrepreneurs could provide.

New Mexico needs a change in its culture as it pertains to education, child-well being and other markers of the social conditions crisis that has deepened with the ongoing stagnation/recession and  income inequality.

Much of the state has been in a no-growth mode for a long five years or more. Tax cuts, regulation reform and free-market Republican leadership in Santa Fe and ABQ  has not turned us around. That's because our problems are long-term and systemic not short term.

Both the short term and long term require liquidity. Money has to be injected into this laggard economy to make up for the federal bleed and the failure to attract new business. For the short-term, that means building useful things--like bridges, roads, new public buildings and the like. For the long-term it means an ongoing and expensive commitment to early childhood education to change the culture of underachievement that plagues us.

The body politic of New Mexico is stalled. The voting classes recoil from the notion that money can solve our problems and those that believe it can are larelgy disengaged from the political process. As usual, the answer is deal making and compromise. Cutting corporate taxes in exchange for a boost in Hollywood incentives--as the state did in '13--is not going to cut the muster in the 21st century. We're in need of real compromise in which both sides hurt.

If we are to break the gridlock those who don't believe money is the answer may have to forgo that view and those that believe it does may have to give up another equally cherished view. That would be the underpinnings of a Grand Bargain that would finally begin the long process of rebuilding a state at a standstill. Any takers?

BROOKS UNDER THE BUS

ABQ GOP City Councilor and new interim ABQ Public Schools Superintendent Brad Winter says he wants to cut the political drama at APS but then he does a campaign style interview in which he dumps all over Winston Brooks, his predecessor as superintendent. Brooks was an arch-foe of the Martinez political machine. Brad is a machine member in good standing.

What purpose was served by attacking Brooks and sucking up to the Guv? Well, not much in terms of improving education for our kids, but it did keep Brad in good stead with the Guv and Public Education Secretary Skandera who--with the ouster of the troublesome Brooks--can now run APS the way they see fit. Who needs to argue about education policy when things are going so well, right?

HEINRICH'S ISLAND

ABQ reader Vicki Farrar writes of Sen. Heinrich's survival stay on a deserted island with a Republican senator and which is the basis of a reality show

I disagree with your Alligator who said that Heinrich was taking a risk because: “He's a couple years into the Senate, things are at a standstill in DC and he uses his August recess time to fly to a Pacific island to film a reality show instead of spending time in the district.” I was attending the Fundraiser/Meet and Greet for Maggie Toulouse Oliver event in downtown Albuquerque August 27th when Sen. Heinrich showed up to support Maggie for Secretary of State.  I appreciated that he was here in ABQ and supporting such a worthwhile candidate. Well, maybe your alligator just can’t be everywhere that Martin is. . .

Thanks, Vicki. The Alligators are most comfortable in ABQ's South Valley where they are fed chicharrones and read ancient manuscripts on the art of the Movida. Having all they need, they disdain travel and get grumpy when they see politicos partake. . .

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