Monday, March 09, 2015

Gov't Billions Left Unspent; Where's The Santa Fe Salivating? Plus: The Right-To-Work-Corpse; A Revival? And: Stealth Layoffs At Intel? Employment Number Dives 

You would think the politicians would be salivating over the news that there's some $4.5 billion in unspent money just sitting around at hundreds of state agencies. State Auditor Tim Keller says over $2 billion of that cash is not restricted in the way it can be spent (Complete state report is here).

Why is no one looking to round-up that money and use it to spark economic activity? (Never mind how it was permitted to accumulate). Heck, forget about a constitutional amendment to tap the state's nearly $15 billion Permanent Fund for very early childhood programs. You could reallocate $100 million of the unspent money for ten years and still have another billion left. And a reader writes of the news:

It is utterly amazing that a state as poor as NM is sitting on a pile of cash this large (not to mention the additional $15 billion plus in various other permanent funds and the like) and is doing nothing to put that money to work solving a few of our problems. How does our Governor explain asking the legislature to issue $60 million a year in new road construction bonds while the state sits on this hoard of cash? Inexplicable.

The state budget hole caused by the bear market in energy suddenly doesn't look so threatening, if this cash can be accessed. It's strange to behold--like a plate of red meat in front of a pack of pit bulls but none of them takes a bite, and as the puppies (the citizens) scramble for scraps.

Come on Governor and Legislature. Over $1 billion of the unspent money is for construction projects you guys approved but haven't happened. Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur "Dr. No" Smith says much of the money can't be accessed because it is restricted. Understood. But Auditor Keller says there's some $2 billion that can be and therein lies the issue for Smith and his austerity hawk cohorts. We  need a full-blown debate over this cash and we need it now. We might add--if you're a candidate for governor this is more than a 48 hour story, it is a four year story.


So when is a corpse a corpse? That's the question about right-to-work (RTW). The bill passed the House but suffered what appeared to be a death blow when Republican Senators failed to bypass the committee system and "blast" the bill to the floor for a vote. Still, if somehow the R's could get RTW to the floor it would pass--with support from some of the Martinez Democrats. They've promised to honor the committee system, but not oppose the measure if it somehow otherwise made it to the floor.

Those who still insist there is a faint pulse left in RTW say the House could take a Senate approved bill, attach a RTW amendment to it and send it back to the Senate in a last ditch effort to carry the day.

RTW as the Lazarus of Session '15 seems a stretch but as we've said repeatedly, with the Senate's Martinez Democrats ready to waffle at a moment's notice Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez is not a man who should be be taking any naps.

Las Cruces reader Greg Lennes notes there is outside pressure being placed on state senators when it comes to RTW:

I received a phone call last week from Goal Advocacy PAC to contact my senator to support RTW.  Goal Advocacy was formed to promote conservative policies such as those of GOP southern Congressman Steve Pearce. Jason Heffley, executive director of GOAL Advocacy, is a former member of Pearce’s congressional staff.


What happened to 600 workers at Intel in Rio Rancho? It looks like they're out. The giant chipmaker in late 2013 announced 400 layoffs that, according to Intel's estimate, would take employment down to 2,900. No additional layoffs have been publicly announced since, but now we get this eyebrow raising news:

Kirby Jefferson, site manager for Intel’s Rio Rancho location, presented a slideshow highlighting company’s history with the city. Since breaking ground in 1980, Jefferson said the company has contributed funds for projects like NM 528 and Rio Rancho Public Schools; in 1995, Intel contributed $30 million toward the building of Rio Rancho High School. Jefferson said Intel currently employs 2,300 workers and is the largest private industrial employer in the state.

Seems Intel has some 'spalinin to do over the missing 600. It may be the largest "private industrial employer in the state" but since 2005 it has taken its workforce down from 5,300 to 2,300. How low can you go?

Like so many things during this Great Recession in New Mexico, life-changing economic news is greeted with a shrug.


Conservative Jim McClure comes with thoughts for a NM growth strategy:

We need a growth strategy to attract new residents. Boosting tourism is a no-brainer, along with modifying the tax structure to attract retirees who don’t require jobs or decent schools. We also can attract more military retirees if we join the 39 other states that do not tax the full amount of military pensions. We need to attract employers, too, but expanding the consumer base is a good start. We need to change New Mexico’s self-imposed isolation and "not invented here” attitude. Because we are a small state with a shallow, inbred talent pool, we need to welcome and support innovative outsiders such as (Democrat) Alan Webber and even (Republcian Sec. of Education) Hanna Skandera. Why not recruit outside policy experts as we do football coaches and university presidents?

Okay, Jim, is this the start of the Webber-Skandera 2018 Guv ticket? Or is it Skandera-Webber? 

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