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Monday, March 07, 2016

Post-McCleskey Political Era Will Have To Wait As Feds Fold On Indictment, Plus: The Great Unraveling: First The Oil Crash; Now The Medicaid Crisis; Soon A Million Recipients And A Giant Budget Hole 

McCleskey & Martinez
The post-McCleskey political era in New Mexico will have to wait. However the decision by the Feds not to indict the notorious political consultant known as the state's "Shadow Governor" because of the immense influence he exerts over Governor Martinez, does not mean McCleskey and the political machine he heads will strengthen. The opposite could be true.

The serious legal questions raised by the federal grand jury probe put McCleskey and Martinez on softer legal ground. There will be more scrutiny of him and the millions he hopes to raise this year in an effort to keep Republican control of the State House and take control of the State Senate. And, on the moral authority front Martinez was downgraded by her infamous holiday pizza party when audio tapes revealed her bossing around low-level hotel employees and the police--and appearing pretty loaded while doing so.

Still, the no indictment outcome had to cause a big sigh of relief for the pair. An indictment would have been devastating to them and cratered their campaign plans as Jay awaited trial. They live to fight another day, but because McCleskey overreached and triggered an investigation the fight in him and Martinez will not be as furious.

Another reason for that is the calendar. Tomorrow is filing day for all the legislative seats. It will be the last chance for Martinez/McCleskey to push candidates into the primary and general election races. State Senators, in particular, will be free to roam about the building once they know with certainty that they are not machine targets.

THE GREAT UNRAVELING

Secretary Earnest
And that brings us to the state of state government which continues to unravel before our eyes. The latest body blow was delivered by Human Services Secretary Brent Earnest who reported that the cost of the state run Medicaid program is about to blow an enormous hole in the budget. That follows a cannon strike from the oil and gas fields where plummeting prices there have already shredded the treasury.

The secretary said the shortfall will amount to a hefty $86 million over the next 16 months, but because that money is matched much more than that by the Feds, the actual shortfall will be an elephantine $417 million.

Gov. Martinez agreed to President Obama's plan to expand Medicaid but she and the Legislature have yet to figure out how to pay for it. Because there are so many low-income New Mexicans, they are eligible for Medicaid. Come July 2017 it's expected half the state or nearly 1 million individuals will be on Medicaid. Boom!

Folks, we'll say it again. Before the radical transformation of the economy here is finished, you're going to continue to see and hear things you never thought possible. Add 1 million New Mexicans getting Medicaid to the list of shockers (and you thought 10,000 applicants for 290 Cheesecake Factory jobs in ABQ was the topper.)

You can't cut your way out of the Medicaid hole. Santa Fe needs to find cash and fast. Taking over $400 million out of medical care--one of the few sectors growing jobs in this state which is saddled with the highest jobless rate in the USA--is economic suicide.

Still Martinez and company are still chanting "no new taxes" even as state government sinks into the abyss and the state economy seems headed for its worst performing decade since the Great Depression (we'll get our No Bullshit Economists working on that one). How our elected leaders can refuse to come up with $86 million when it means over $400 million in spending for health care is a question for a political malpractice lawyer, not a blogger.

Here's some low-lying fruit to get that $86 million. Yes, do some cuts. Then start sweeping some of the hundreds of millions in unspent capital outlay into Medicaid for at least a one time funding fix; raise the gas tax a nickel a gallon for three years and slow down the corporate income tax cut that has failed to attract businesses as promised. That means legislative finance leaders such as Senator John Arthur Smith and House Ways and Means Chairman Jason Harper must get busy with Secretary Earnest and stop the nonsense about no new taxes forever and ever, even if it means citizens head to the cemetery instead of the ER.

If Medicaid is allowed to go into the gutter look for high quality medical professionals to join the exodus out of here and for a work force even less prepared to work. You think it can't get worse? Think again.

STUMPING WITH SUSANA

There's no use imploring Gov. Martinez to join in the Medicaid problem solving. She's out of here. It's kind of like Big Bill when he found succor on the national stage.

As the Medicaid crisis brewed and oil prices stayed in the cellar, she was off to Kansas Friday to give a badly timed endorsement of Marco Rubio, with a dash of Trump bashing thrown in. (Transcript here. Video here). No sooner had she announced Rubio as her new Prez pal and he goes and loses a bunch of states and is essentially out of the race. Like we said this political machine is dented--and showing rust when it pulls stunts like that. . .

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2016
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