Friday, July 22, 2016
The Party Is Over In Cleveland And A NM Hangover Will Greet Guv's Return, Plus: Our Take On The Trump Speech
Just this week the executive director of the NM Spaceport resigned as the project totters on the brink of extinction. Rail Runner ridership has crashed but the big bills to finance it roll on and the state budget crisis is threatening to become even more ominous.
The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is now calling for a summer special legislative session to deal with ballooning revenue shortfalls brought on by the crash in oil and gas prices, an overall anemic state economy and a decade of ineffective tax cutting.
The first two disappointments--the Spaceport and Rail Runner--can be traced to the term of Gov. Richardson when big spending and big ideas were all the rage. But then the Great Recession struck and along came the Republicans and their small government and small ideas. While Richardson over reached, the R's under reached and have done little of consequence to halt the state's drift, only manage it.
It worked for a while but now New Mexico has run out of gas. A massive injection of new federal money to revive the economy is unlikely no matter who is elected president. The ABQ metro is is holding on but seems only one blow away from reeling again. Another national recession is a real danger here.
The Governor will try to avoid an election year special session and kick the budget can into the regular session in January. What hat tricks the administration will come up with to plug the hole left for the budget year that ended June 30 remains to be seen.
Look at the scope of the mess as outlined in this release from State Sen. John Arthur Smith, chairman of Senate Finance:
In the fiscal year that ended on June 30th, New Mexico has a $150 million funding shortfall. . . Smith said he believes that a State fund containing up to $230 million from a settlement with tobacco companies could be used to cover the $150 million shortfall from Fiscal Year ’16. All other State reserve funds were essentially exhausted earlier this year.
The outlook for Fiscal Year ’17, which began on July 1st, appears to be even worse, and could see a shortfall of between $300 - $500 million. Smith indicated that program cuts and new revenue sources would be needed to address it.
And what about the budget for the year that begins July 1, 2017 and that lawmakers must craft in their next session? Santa Fe will need to put antidepressants in the water before it tackles that one.
ABQ Republican House Appropriations Committee Chairman Larry Larrañaga is dragging his feet in agreeing with Sen. Smith on the urgency of this crisis, but his capitulation is inevitable, no matter how much fealty he wishes to show to the Fourth and Fifth Floors. He must rise above politics and in his waning legislative years do what is right for New Mexico.
Chairman Larrañaga arguing that Richardson and Gov. Johnson also faced a big deficit or two has nothing to do with the problem at hand. Those were completely different times--a different era. Smith, Larrañaga et al. must buckle down and formulate a long-term strategy to dig the state out of the hole that years of mismanagement have put it into.
The subject that Martinez has assiduously avoided throughout her tenure--the economy--will now be front and center her final two years, with knock down, drag out fights developing over tax increases and spending cuts.
The convention party in Cleveland is indeed over and a whale of a hangover awaits her in the embattled Land of Enchantment.
More on the budget crisis from a Senior Alligator of the Democratic variety:
Remember this from Gov. Martinez?"
"I inherited the largest structural deficit in state history," she said. "And our legislature is controlled by Democrats. We don't always agree. But we came together — in a bi-partisan manner — and turned that deficit into a surplus. All without raising taxes."
Well, that was sleight of hand since it was not the "largest structural deficit in state history" when she took office. But not to worry. Looks like Susana is now staring the real deal right in the face. Show us your stuff, Guv.
THE TRUMP SPEECH
The speech was criticized as being too dark but with a huge majority of Americans believing the country is headed in the wrong direction, it's bound to resonate more than the chattering classes would like to admit.
Presidential in tone? No. But we are in different times and the caustic tone of social media has seeped into the public arena. Trump was angry and relentless in attacking his opponent. Kind of like what you get on much of Twitter and Facebook.
Too long? The longest acceptance speech in modern history, but this is a nominee who has rewritten the rule book in unimaginable ways. He wasn't about to stop last night. And the difference is Trump, unlike other politicians, gets ratings. He was playing it for all it was worth.
Trump remains the underdog in a country that is rapidly changing, but he showed again last night that he is a dog with a bite and who knows how to hunt. Democrats have every reason to be on guard.
MARY SKEEN DIES
The widow of former southern NM GOP Congressman Joe Skeen, Mary Skeen, has died. Besides supporting her husband in his political endeavors, Mary Skeen, a native of Roswell, was appointed to the state House to fill a vacancy, served on the Hondo Valley School Board and was a member of the New Mexico Wool Growers Association and the National Federation of Republican Women.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. today (Friday) at Grace Community Church in Roswell. Memorial contributions may be made to the Assurance Home for Children in Roswell. Mary Skeen was 89.
THE BOTTOM LINES
In blogging of the judicial contests this week we did not make it clear that Judith Nakamura is currently on the state Supreme Court--appointed to the post by Gov. Martinez She is a former ABQ district court judge, not a current one. The judicial election year juggling turned into our story from hell but it does make us look forward to the weekend. Have a good one. . .and thanks for stopping by this week.
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2016