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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Really Reelin' At The Roundhouse: Dem Committee Chairs Said To Face Banishment From Their Committees, Plus: An Alligator Strike On GOP Senator Over Abortion, And: The Wide Ranging Impact Of The Great Oil Bear 

Now they're really reelin' at the Roundhouse. Word is circulating that Democrats who chaired the powerful standing committees of the state House when they were in the majority are about to feel the steel of the Republican hammer.

That word is that most--if not all of those chairs--won't even be allowed to serve on their committees in a minority capacity when Republicans assume full command of the chamber at the start of the legislative session January 20.

If soon-to-be Speaker Don Tripp goes ahead with the plan it would mean powerful chairs like ABQ Dem Gail Chasey would be banished from her cherished judiciary committee and that Santa Fe Dem Brian Egolf--now the House Minority Leader--would be barred from the important House Energy Committee that he has chaired.

The speculation is that the R's--new to the power game--don't want the ex-chairs getting in their way and second-guessing them as they feel their way around.

It's the first time in 60 years that the Dems don't control the House and with that news about the chairs and more, it's really starting to hit home. The House Dems have been busy moving out of their nicely situated offices and to more suitable space for election losers--in the Siberia zones of the capitol.

Also, the humiliated Dems will be switching desks on the floor of the House. The GOP leadership wants its flock to take the desks on what was once the Democratic side of the chamber.

Hey, now that it's big time, crying time for the House Dems maybe Speaker Don will stock those Dem desks with extra Kleenex. It won't go to waste. . .

ALLIGATOR STRIKE

Sen. Sharer
Good morning, Senator Bill Sharer. Now prepare yourself for an Alligator strike. From the Roundhouse:

The Republican state Senator from Farmington has been in the fore of the anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage movements in New Mexico so where is his bill for the upcoming legislative session that would ban late term abortion? Or that constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage? It's just the kind of stuff Governor Susana doesn't want anywhere near her now that the GOP has taken over the House and would like to hide such matters in the basement.

So, is Sharer shutting up at the behest of the Guv and her political machine? Or has he gone soft and is no longer a member in good standing of the hard right? Now that his controversial bills have a better chance of passing at least the House, why isn't Senator Sharer shouting from the rooftops over the evils of abortion and gay marriage? Thousands of activists cheered him on in previous years and counted on him to lead their cause. What happened to Senator Sharer? Did an Alligator bite his tongue? Inquiring minds want to know.

THE GREAT OIL BEAR

The math is pretty simple when it comes to the Great Oil Bear who struck again Tuesday and crashed the price of a barrel to $47.85.

The Santa Fe bean counters are projecting an average price of $66 a barrel for the state budget year that starts July 1, 2015. They say for each dollar drop below $66, the state suffers a loss of $7.5 million in taxes and royalties.

That means if oil stayed at its current price it would mean a loss to the state of about $135 million for the upcoming budget year. That would wipe out the already reduced projected surplus of $142 million.

But the pain of the oil bear doesn't stop there. It won't be long before we start hearing of layoffs in the booming oil patch. The rig count for the Texas-NM Permian basis is already plunging. According to Farmington area oilman Jason Sandel, each rig supports about 150 jobs.

One of our energy Alligators (yep, that's a new category of Gator for these changing times) says word in the Four Corners is that oil and gas drilling giant Encana will be "laying down all its rigs in the region early this year."

Poor San Juan County. First, the bear market in natural gas prices decimates the local economy leading to depopulation and busted government budgets. Now the oil bear strikes and snuffs out hopes for a revival.

And what's the betting line on how low the rates go on those expensive hotel rooms in the SE oil patch? From $200 a night to $20?

HIGH IMPACT

And what of the political impact of all this? Former Dem ABQ mayor and state land commissioner Jim Baca says it will be felt on the Fourth Floor of the Roundhouse:

. . . As oil prices continue to fall Governor Martinez's free ride over the last four years will come to an end. Of course the legislature will share in this meltdown. In fairness, who could see this price decline continuing as it has? But the Martinez administration looks like the deer in the headlights.

And back to the jobs. The news on that front has been getting a bit brighter. The state in recent months is finally reporting some modest year-over-year job growth. Many of the new jobs are in the energy industry. If the jobs reports go sour because of the oil bear it will be another cross for Susana to bear.

But, you say, she seems invulnerable to bad news. Not really. As the Governor's race started to heat up in August of last year, an ABQ Journal poll had Martinez winning 50 percent of the vote against Democrat Gary King. Then came the Democratic disaster and King's inability to mount a campaign.

Absent the Dem disaster, you can assume from that August poll that the Guv is basically right on the magic number of 50 percent. The trip to trouble right below that is a mere step.

Throughout her governorship Martinez has downplayed the stagnant economy, brushing it off as a result of Federal spending cutbacks. She's joined in that view by a supportive conservative press and a supremely patient business community that continues to see bottom lines shrink. How will that world view hold up under the simultaneous pressure of major federal spending cutbacks and an epic crash in the energy sector? If something doesn't change, we'll soon find out.

IRBS ARE OKAY

Reader Alan Schwartz is getting push back from Bernalillo County officials. Schwartz wrote here that the county--confronting a $20 million budget shortfall--has sacrificed too much property tax revenue by approving Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRB's) for big companies that forgive their tax bills.

BernCo Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins says while the bonds issued as IRB's may be for large amounts, the property tax break is minimal and the jobs created are substantial. County economic development director Mayling Armijo adds:

In recent years, the Bernalillo County Commission has thoughtfully supported projects that have created more than 1,800 jobs and nearly $200 million in new, private investment activity. While the property tax exemptions specific to the projects identified are approximately $279,000, these companies will invest $25 million into the local economy.

Among the companies getting an IRB from the county in recent years is Lowe's. It opened a large customer support center that employs hundreds.

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