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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Beseeching "Boss Sanchez" For Our Wish List For Final Action, Plus: Your Big Tuesday Blog Covers The Major Legislative Action With News, Analysis And Perspective As Go Home Time Nears  

"Boss Sanchez"
The Republican operatives this year are calling State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez "Boss Sanchez." And while that shows a certain lack of respect, it does sum up the game in Santa Fe in these final hours of the legislative session. What will happen or not happen is largely in the hands of Sanchez who determines what bills will be brought to the floor. So with that in mind we are now going to beseech "The Boss":

---Don't sanction the mismanagement of the ABQ police department by allowing a "double-dipping" bill sought by Mayor Berry. It would bring back the very officers who were part of the culture that destroyed the department and brought in the Feds. Make the mayor take responsibility for his police force by not having Santa Fe clean up his mess.

---Kill the teen curfew, Boss. It's already been found unconstitutional. Enough said.

---You can let the tougher DWI penalties slide in. The bill is feel-good legislation that does nothing to address the need for more booze and drug treatment or for improving incomes which would lead to less substance abuse.

---Even former GOP Governor Johnson says the revival of the "three strikes" bill for so-called "Boomerang Thugs" is worthless. Kill it, Boss.

In fact, go ahead and kill just about all the remaining Republican crime legislation put before the legislature. It was a blatant attempt to divert attention from the state's crashing economy, with the thought of using crime as a wedge issue in the upcoming campaign.

Now, Boss, here's something you can do to make a statement. Just tell your lobbyist brother Raymond to step aside for a moment and revive the bill to freeze the latest corporate income tax cut so the hungry state treasury can begin to get some desperately needed nourishment. You can do, it Boss.

Now don't think we're bossing you around, Boss. We know your Senate "family" doesn't care for outsiders butting in, but for today only please consider our list and just call us "Cousin Joe." Thanks, Boss.

GOODBYE LICENSES

Well, it's no more "driver's licenses forever!" around here as the legislature and Governor finally agreed to a compromise over issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants. Not much is left to be said except to tell you that we are proud sponsors of the "1st Annual Undocumented Immigrant Drag Racing Meet" to be held tonight on Eubank Boulevard in ABQ. Let it rip, amigos, and wave those papers.

BUDGET BLUES

Sen. Griggs
It's not down much--yet--but it is still down and that's the first time that has happened to the state budget since the punishing Great Recession was in full swing five years ago. And when you account for inflation this budget is very anemic. From the Senate Dems:

The (amended budget) totals about $6.228 billion, down from the $6.235 billion budget passed last year. It also reflects a $20 million increase to Medicaid funding, which is matched at 3-to-1 by the federal government. CYFD will receive an extra $5 million for children protection services, including the hiring of more social workers. In addition, the amendment calls for a $19 million decrease to the higher education budgets throughout the state.

Sure, oil prices are down, but this isn't North Dakota. This is New Mexico, supposedly a thriving Sunbelt state that surely by now you would expect to have a much softer landing from an energy crash because of our attraction to business and others. We never made it happen.

And how about this? Senator Ron Griggs of Alamogordo breaks with GOP orthodoxy and says lawmakers are partly to blame for the starved state budget. He says that's because of all the exemptions they have granted to the state gross receipts tax.

Is Griggs preparing us for repeal of some of those exemptions, if the state's financial condition continues to worsen as it may well do if oil prices stay in the basement?

Certainly, any special session would be interesting to see how the R's try to raise revenues without violating their sacrosanct "no new taxes" pledge. Does repealing a tax exemption constitute a tax increase? (Maybe if it's only for stuff like the food tax exemption that helps working families and should not be repealed?)

Whatever the case, Griggs is on the right track in talking about revenue as is GOP State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn who says increased revenue--including an increase in the gas tax--should be in the mix in order to solve the state's fiscal woes.

Reader Tony Louderbough writes of the big budget story:

Joe, Thanks for going after the budget issue. It's fine for certain lawmakers not to want to blame anybody but we spend serious money so we know about these things before the legislature meets. Also, I'll bet the Gov's staff have spent more time looking for the person who busted her "piz-zah" party than at the budget. Keep up the good work!

Thanks, Tony. Gov. Martinez has been beyond AWOL this session. She's nowhere to be seen or heard. As she becomes more of a lame duck that could be par for the course.

Reader Tim Thackberry adds:

Joe: Thanks very much for keeping vital NM issues front and center. Your section on Friday about the long-term effects of tax cutting reminded me of the old quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes (Republican, Massachusetts): "I like paying taxes. With them, I buy civilization."

Mr. Holmes would not fare well in today's Republican Party.

BAILING OUT

Blogger Monahan
More on that bail reformconstitutional amendment that bondsmen agreed to and which softens the provision that would allow a judge to take indigent defenders out of jail, if the only reason they were being held was due to a lack of money to post bail. This comes from a Senior Alligator who also happens to be a sitting judge:

The story was told by one news story in a single succinct sentence. "A bipartisan handful of legislators have spent the past few days in closed-door negotiations with bail bond lobbyists hammering out the agreement."  The "compromise" is no such thing. Lobbyists and campaign contributions win again, while NM finds another way to hurt its impoverished citizens. For an indigent person to have to file a motion to exercise a right the US and New Mexico Constitutions already provide, and then wait a couple days in jail to have it heard is the other evil the bill was supposed to eliminate.

Several groups, including the ACLU of NM, the NM Criminal Defense Lawyers and Young Women United have withdrawn their support of the amendment because of the compromise. The measure has one more vote in the Senate and if approved would then headed to the voters in November.

PORK, PLEASE

Rio Rancho area GOP State Rep. Jason Harper, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, comments on the passage of this year's capital outlay bill (the "pork" bill) which is smaller than years past because of the crash in oil prices:

. . . "We’ve invested more than $160 million in infrastructure projects including $84 million for hospitals, prisons and state police facilities, as well as other state-owned buildings statewide.” 

In addition, the bill provides $82 million for local projects like roads, water access, parks, health and public safety facilities and cultural facilities.

That bill is now headed to the Senate where passage is anticipated.

HELLO, HECTOR?

This merits a federal investigation, but why not get the ball rolling by having Attorney General Balderas doing it?

A group of behavioral health providers investigated over fraud allegations gathered to call for a federal inquiry into what spurred the state’s investigation. Ten of the 15 accused providers were cleared (by Attorney General Balderas) of any wrongdoing last week. Three more had previously been cleared. The providers (are) claiming that out-of-state companies that operated behavior health services in the wake of the 2013 investigation had political ties. The Human Services Department in June 2013 cut off Medicaid funding to 15 nonprofits, saying an audit by Boston-based Public Consulting Group showed more than $36 million in over billing, as well as mismanagement and possible fraud.

Okay, so if Hector doesn't want to do it or says he can't, then maybe his potential rival for the 2018 Dem Guv nomination, Dem Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, can get in on the action (not that either of them are running yet).

UNM JOBS

Judy C' De Baca comments on our Facebook page about the recent elimination of jobs at UNM:

Typical UNM BS--"eliminating 44 staff positions." All they have to do is eliminate 1 administrator. It's always the working poor that get the axe. It never ends on the north and south sides of Lomas Blvd.

Judy, that's an excellent question for the legislature to be asking UNM as it appears in the months ahead we are going to lose more staff there because of the budget crisis.

IT'S THE ECONOMY


The wasted opportunity at the legislative session to focus on the state's economic crisis is not lost on businessman and 2014 Dem Guv candidate Alan Webber. He writes:

The hard truth is New Mexico doesn’t have an economic development strategy. What we have is a random collection of out-of-date tactics, failed ideological nostrums and uncoordinated gestures masquerading as a plan. At a time when our oil and gas industry is being pummeled by global trends outside our control, a real New Mexico economic strategy is desperately needed and long overdue. It’s what this session of the Legislature should be devoted to, focusing on jobs and opportunity with laser-like intensity. It’s what every city and town across the state should be talking about in council meetings and town halls. It should be the center of media attention.

Reader Ken Tabish has the final word on this big Tuesday blog as he comments on Land Commissioner Dunn's proposal to raise the gas tax to ease the state's fiscal pains:

Joe, I was really surprised to read about Republican Aubrey Dunn’s suggestion that we need to raise revenue, i.e. taxes. As land commissioner he has access to to the income generated from the oil and gas industry for our state. He has proposed and I would wholeheartedly agree that placing a tax on gas with prices so low could be a way to raise revenue and not overly hurt the consumer. Yesterday, I purchased gas at $1.43 a gallon and all the economic indicators that I hear and read about say it could go lower. I cannot remember when I purchased gas so low. I believe many of us can afford an additional tax per gallon at the pump . . . and what revenue this would create would be a welcomed boost to the state’s economic shortfall. Maybe, we could at least be close to the budget proposed by the House. Also, we possibly could avoid a special session.


Well, we are not going to get a gas tax in this session which is just about over. But if there is a special, Ken, you can bet that the gas tax debate will be front and center. Dunn is on to something. . .

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2016

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