Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Budget Crunch Has Susana Caving On Special Session; Dems Try To Tighten The Vise As Crisis Deepens; Earlier The Better When It Comes To A Special And The R's 

The Martinez administration has lost the high ground in its fight to avoid having a special legislative session before the November election. GOP Senator Steven Neville of the Four Corners joined with Dem Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith in calling for a special to deal with a ballooning budget crisis as has the pro-Martinez newspaper

The Governor is starting to cave, saying she would like to see a deal worked out before any special convened and do the deed in a one day session. It is up to the governor to call the 112 lawmakers into special session.

That's a reasonable request from Martinez and the right play. Having a special session early in the election cycle--before Labor Day--instead of fighting it through the election campaign would deprive the Dems of some ammo to make the economy the paramount issue in the battle to take back control of the state House.

Fighting the special would only put the spotlight even more on Martinez's economic policies or lack thereof.

Smith put on the table one solution for Martinez who is between a rock and a hard place because of her pledge not to ever, ever, ever raise taxes. No matter what. Even if the sky falls. Even, one supposes if the vicious Bear Market in the oil fields continues to eat away at the state's very foundation.

Smith proposes raiding the $220 million tobacco settlement fund to to resolve the $150 million shortfall left from the budget year that ended June 30. Susana should accept that and look to partially resolve the shortfall--up to $500 million--for the budget year that we are now in--the one that started July.

Senate Dems smell blood and looked to put the Guv's head in a vise Tuesday, saying they will not agree to any cuts in public or higher education to resolve the budget mess. Both have already taken significant cuts as state revenues plummet.

That leaves those "over my dead body" tax increases staring in her face.

Sen. Neville
Predictably, there are calls to balance the budget by reinstating the tax on food, the repeal of which has been of great benefit to lower income families.

The real solution to solving a $600 million deficit (or more) is the aforementioned $220 million in tobacco money, freezing the corporate income tax cut passed a couple of years ago, which the LFC says is costing us far more than anticipated, and passage of a temporary hike in the gas tax.

Do that and then let's figure out what's going to hit us next in these uncharted waters we are entering. The state desperately needs to develop a long term plan to restructure a state government that month by month is becoming a relic of the past.

Back to the current disarray, Martinez is not going to be able to cut her way out of it,  although budget cuts will have to be part of the short-term solution. As much as she dislikes government, layoffs of hundreds of state workers won't stand and neither will further deep cuts in the education budgets.

For now Martinez and the Legislature must legally plug the budget hole from the last year. Her best bet may be to let Smith blow the tobacco fund in a special and then cut a deal to come back in January to tackle the lion's share of the $500 million elephant. Doing that in a special with no tax increases may be impossible. However. . .

Everyone--including Martinez--will have more wiggle room following the election and, boy, are they going to need it.


The Governor lost Senator Neville and Republican Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn in the budget battle. Neville Is calling for the special session and Dunn is saying increased taxes can't be ruled out. Those slaps are not unusual for a Governor now in her sixth year and with lessening leverage with each passing day, but it is still significant. By the time the budget crisis is resolved we could see the Senate up to its old ways--like when Gov. Richardson was a lame duck and members of his own party started going their own way.


Reader Dennis Martinez has a cynical take on all the special session talk:

Joe,  The Administration has deliberately exhausted the reserves. They will never raise taxes for revenue, in an effort to permanently cut back government. An atrophied government is less effective, less assertive, and that is precisely what the Administration has been working towards. They want a government with less money so that it will not grow, and they hope to achieve that for the foreseeable future by exhausting the reserves.


We understand the passion the Bernie Sanders followers bring to the NM delegation to the Democratic National Convention this week and their concern with Hillary, but when are we going to see that passion and heavy voting materialize in the state's races for Governor, ABQ Mayor and the Legislature? The conservatives here have kicked the butts of the stay-at-home Sanders progressives, even though the GOP is outnumbered. The Sanders crowd could make a real, substantial difference here if it would start fielding and backing candidates and participating more in local elections.


The family of noted political consultant and pollster Bruce Donisthorpe have announced the time and date for his memorial:

Services will be held on Thursday July 28 at 3:00 pm at the Legacy Church East Campus, 4701 Wyoming NE, Albuquerque. A reception will follow in the Legacy Church gymnasium. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in his name to the N.M. Coalition for Literacy or the UNM Foundation.

Bruce passed away Sunday from apparent heart failure at the age of 56. We did an obit about him on the Tuesday blog and we closed it with a Spanish phrase, but the spelling in the first draft got botched as several readers pointed out. The corrected version is: Hasta luego or "So long."

The ABQ Journal obituary is here.

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