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Thursday, April 02, 2015

It Would Take Something Special For A Special Session And The Latest Berry Budget Reflects The Great Stagnation  

Calling a special session of the Legislature is an executive decision, placing on the Governor the primary leadership responsibility for forging a compromise before one is called. Despite some pressure it does not look as if we are going to get one, judging by Martinez's comments Wednesday.

It's true that the Legislature can call itself into extraordinary session. but that's only been done once in state history--when Republicans got fed up with their own Republican Governor--Gary Johnson--because of his intransigence over the state budget.

If there is a special, history says keeping it simple works best, A one day session to pass the $264 capital outlay (construction projects) package that would create jobs--and you're out. Of course, the danger of a special is that lawmakers bring up unrelated measures, replicating the gridlock in which the regular session ended. Once Martinez calls them back she is no longer in control of what they do and that's a good reason to let sleeping dogs (and lawmakers) lie. . .

The Governor is blaming the break down of the '15 regular session on the Senate Dems and in particular Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, but as we've been reporting the Guv has come under her share of fire from pundits and newspapers across the state. The ABQ Journal remains steadfast in its support, but the crack in the media dam is evident elsewhere and not unexpected in a second term. Reader Kevin Garcia echoes the opinion that the Guv's approach may be tiring:

Governor Martinez needs to quit her political posturing, quit blaming everything on the Democrats and call a special session of the Legislature. I can think of nothing more critical than passing a capital outlay bill to keep the New Mexico economy from falling further and further behind. Every year, capital outlay is critical to make necessary repairs and improvements to our roads and schools and other necessary infrastructure. Blaming it all on the senate majority leader is nothing more than bad posturing as the Governor is the one to call a special session, not the senate. . . 

GET IT MOVING, GUV

Why doesn't the biz community--so desperate now for a special session--simply lobby the Guv to start moving forward with capital projects that have long since been funded but sit dormant--some for years? There is $1.2 billion in capital outlay sitting there, much of which could be put in the pipeline--if we got leadership.

BERRY PATCH 

Why doesn't Mayor Berry have the same attitude toward the ABQ police department that he has adopted for the troubled Animal Welfare Department? Take a look:

We’re going to take immediate action on this. Nobody’s going to dig in their heels and say ‘nothing’s going to change, you’re wrong.’ Let’s figure this thing out.

That's the antithesis of the attitude that Berry has brought to APD's crisis and which has stained the city's reputation and is costing millions in lawsuits and lost business opportunities.

Berry and the APD dig in the heels attitude continued this week as they continued to battle with Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg over the department's investigation of police shooting cases. She says they're stalled.

THE STAGNATION

Way back in 2008 the ABQ city budget was $482 million (not counting federal and other funding which takes it to around $900 million). Flash forward seven years to 2015 and the Mayor proposes a $505 million budget. That's only a 4.8% increase from 2008 and reflects the economic pounding the city has taken. Inflation has far outpaced our city budgets. The forecast is for even more stagnation in the years ahead.

The entire budget is here. The Mayor's news release is here.

Berry proposes a mere 1 percent increase in pay for blue collar workers who have largely gone without pay hikes since the Great Stagnation took hold. He also proposes using about $1 million to pay the annual debt service for $15 million in new construction projects. The bond issue that voters will decide this October is very low, revealing, in part, the metro's economic decline. The extra $15 million Berry proposes will be hungrily eyed by construction companies and their potential workers.

Workers of all stripes around here are in the same boat as the city's blue collar ranks. They're glad to have a job but they are not getting pay hikes to keep up with inflation or even suffering pay cuts or reduced hours. That makes that proposal from PNM to hike electric bills by nearly $10 a month all the more problematic.

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