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Wednesday, August 03, 2016

GOP Land Commissioner Dunn Continues To Move The Political Football Toward The Center, Plus: Pacheco Vs. Ely Fireworks In State House Race 

Land Commissioner Dunn
Republican State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has made another move toward the center of the political spectrum, raising the question whether other R's will follow his lead.

First, Dunn broke with Governor Martinez by announcing he has an open mind about the legislative proposal to raise the state's gasoline tax as part of the solution to the current budget crisis. That grabbed his fellow R's by the collar since Martinez continues to reiterate that she will not support any tax increases, despite an enormous budget shortfall in the face of the oil and gas crash and an overall anemic state economy.

Now Dunn comes with another eyebrow raiser that again takes him more toward the political center, this one dealing with another hot button topic--early childhood education. He calls it the Early Childhood Education Land Grant Act and explains:

The federal government holds a vast amount of unleased federal subsurface mineral acreage beneath private land within New Mexico – at least 5.3 million acres and potentially upwards of 6.5 million acres. . . This unleased acreage could be transferred to the state by Congress and managed by the State Land Office, to be held in trust for the purpose of raising revenue to specifically fund and support early childhood education. 

New Mexico’s congressional delegation would spearhead the effort to transfer (the) acreage beneath private land from the federal government to the state. Land access would not change since private landowners already manage the surface above these minerals. 

Dunn is proposing this bill to the Legislature that would create the Early Childhood Education Land Grant Permanent Fund and the Early Childhood Education Land Grant Income Fund. It says all unleased subsurface mineral acreage that is transferred from the feds to the state would then be leased out by the State Land Office, with the funds earned going to the Early Childhood Education Land Grant Permanent Fund.

Dunn says his plan would not be a quick fix and would take a number of years to see results. However, at the same time, Dunn, unlike the Governor and House Republicans, is not ruling out supporting the proposed constitutional amendment that would tap a small portion of the state's $14 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for very early childhood education for ten years. That amendment would need the Legislature's approval to go before voters who would have the ultimate say. Dunn's office says:

Commissioner Dunn recognizes the urgent need for early childhood education funding in New Mexico and he is studying the potential benefits and fund balance impacts of the constitutional amendment to be proposed during the 2017 session.

Conservative Democrats and R's have joined forces to kill that constitutional amendment several times so Dunn staying on the fence is significant.

Dunn is expected to seek a second term as land commissioner in 2018, but his name has also been bandied about as a possible '18 GOP Guv candidate. Whatever his plans, Dunn is adding new wrinkles to New Mexico Republican politics that will keep the spotlight on him. Because of that observers will be watching to see if a more pragmatic form of Republicanism emerges here.

PACHECO VS. ELY

Rep. Pacheco
A bit of fireworks in the Sandoval County state House race featuring incumbent GOP Rep. Paul Pacheco and Dem Damon Ely. The news:

. . . A complaint to the Attorney General alleges Pacheco failed to disclose a conflict of interest in. . . the funding behind the building of Ask Academy, a charter school in Rio Rancho. . .The complaint claims Pacheco requested more than $1.2 million in capital outlay funds and ultimately secured roughly $230,000 for the project managed by his brother, David Pacheco, who happened to be the architect.  ProgressNow New Mexico alleges Pacheco broke state law by failing to disclose that his brother was behind the school’s construction. 

“All this is is a smear campaign against me and they’re trying to make something out of nothing,” Pacheco said. He claims he didn’t even know his brother was the architect for the school until later when someone mentioned a David Pacheco working for the developer.

Perhaps not the most earthshaking hit on Pacheco but the Democratic performance in the district is 49.2 percent so Pacheco will have to be on guard as he seeks his third term against a well-funded opponent in attorney and former Sandoval County Commissioner Ely.

BUDGET DEBACLE

A new group has formed to weigh in on how the state budget crisis can be resolved. Peter DeBenedittis in Santa Fe is its director:

Joe, Given the push by legislators to have a special session to address the budget deficit, and with talk from legislators from both parties about raising taxes to meet this shortfall, Alcohol Taxes Save Lives And Money has been formed. It is a 100% volunteer coalition working to raise alcohol taxes 25¢ per drink.  Please see the attached press releasefor details on why raising alcohol taxes will save most New Mexico taxpayers money and promote numerous health benefits.

The state budget shortfall for the current budget year could soar to $500 million or more.
DeBenedittis assets that a $.25 cent tax per drink would raise about $154 million a year.

Of course, if the liquor industry got a margarita exemption that would probably go down by half. . .

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