Thursday, September 29, 2016
Special Session Set For Friday With Guv Insisting On Crime Bills; What The Dems Should Do, Plus: Victoria's Murder Gets More Political As TV Ad Goes Up Blaming Governor, And: More On the Woes Of UNM
a special session of the legislature to begin Friday and appears to be hoping for a train wreck that she can blame on the Senate Democrats just in time for the November election.
The session is essential to resolve the $220 million deficit left over from the budget year that ended June 30. The state must legally pay its bills. But Martinez is insisting that a trio of crime bills--including one to reinstate the death penalty for child and cop killers--are equivalent in importance to the historic budget shortfall and has placed them on the call of the session.
It appears it is time for the Senate to call the Governor's bluff. With her popularity down to the low 40's and saddled with a Trump presidential candidacy that could very well collapse on the GOP in the final month, Senate Democrats are positioned to take a stand and win, if they can swallow their courage pills.
Plugging last year's shortfall is essential and can be done by sweeping money from various funds. As for the budget year we are now in and which is already projected to have a deficit of nearly $500 million, the Senate Dems are not going to be able to get a deal with this Governor and the radical House Republicans which does not involve violating their pledge not to cut the budgets of the public schools and universities. They can propose additional sweeps to start on that problem and leave the heavy lifting of cuts and revenue enhancement for the 2017 session in January.
As for the crime bills, the Senate might be able to give the Governor something on the "three strikes and you're out" legislation, but the death penalty is a nonstarter. The bill could be referred to Senate Finance Committee where it could be tabled on the grounds of its significant fiscal impact with the pledge to take it up in the '17 session.
The Governor's office says "we hope (the special session) will be short" but accuses the Senate Dems of "playing games," meaning the Dems won't give on the crime bills.
The Senate needs to act fast. The longer the session drags on the more definition it will have in the mind of the public and they will take the hit. They need to be out of there Friday night, let the Governor do her bleating into the weekend and into the start of Balloon Fiesta and be done with it. Then everyone heads out to the campaign trail to fight it out with each side accusing the other of playing political games.
gruesome murder of 10 year old Victoria Martens started the talk of reinstating the death penalty but now a flip side.
The progressive Center for Civic Action comes with a hard- hitting 30 second TV spot that places blame for the murder of Victoria not on the lack of a death penalty but squarely in the lap of Gov. Martinez.
The ad features a little boy posing questions about the murder to his mother who explains that Victoria was killed by "bad people but she's in Heaven now." The little boy wonders if the "people who protect kids" could have saved Victoria." The mom's answer: "The CYFD should have protected Victoria but Governor Martinez didn't give them the support they needed to save kids like Victoria."
The ad states that APS notified CYFD of concerns about Victoria and that the agency interviewed the little girl but no action was taken. The ad also says there are over 390 vacant positions at CYFD.
The new ad could provide some cover for Democrats fighting the Guv's political machine and its top heavy crime agenda in key House and Senate races. Certainly, the blame game for Victoria's murder is now part of Campaign '16 as we will see at the special session.
The ad is pretty brutal but the buy of $36,000 over a three week period on the big broadcast stations and cable is a break for Martinez. If it were something like $136,000 it just might bring her approval ratings down even further.
The Center is a tax exempt group that is not required to reveal where it gets its donations, but groups associated with liberal billionaire George Soros have in the past given money to the group.
PNM RATE HIKE
Nine percent is better than 14 percent but not by much. The Public Regulation Commission (PRC) fell short of giving the electric utility monopoly the 14 percent boost it wanted but also did not come close to the 6 percent increase that its own hearing officer said should be granted. Pushing through a rate hike that will increase average residential bills by 9 percent in the middle of a long term economic stagnation replete with low wages is going to hurt. A 6 percent hike would not have endangered PNM's financial standing or its stock price. PNM says it will appeal to the NM Supreme Court asking for the full 14 percent.
David Harris' salary, and several other executives for that matter, contain a significant portion in deferred compensation. That amount never appears in the sunshine portal and is "hidden" compensation. You can only find out how much it is by requesting the contract addendum through an IPRA request. This was routinely done a few years ago by the Journal and others but I don't think anyone has requested it in recent years. It would be interesting to know who gets it and how much they get. I think we would all be surprised.
In 2009, the newspaper did a story noting Harris was then getting $50,000 a year in deferred compensation. Our reliable sources at UNM say that it is now $75,000 per year which makes his refusal to answer questions about taxpayer money at UNM all the more disturbing.
Seven years ago total deferred compensation at UNM topped $1 million. What is it today? The legislature ought to gather the numbers and promptly release them and start the cutting. If VP Harris chooses to walk out because of it, so be it.
INSIDER FRANK INFO
Now more on what we're told was the refusal of the UNM Regents to renew the contract of President Bob Frank and who will soon fill a $350,000 gig created especially for him at the UNM Health Sciences Center. A UNM reader writes:
The fact that the Board of Regents didn't renew President Frank's contract is no surprise. The creation of the position at the HSC is actually quite brilliant. It's a big "screw-you" to Dr. Paul Roth, head of HSC. Make Paul Roth pay the outrageous salary and give Frank a title that are duties that belong to the Dean of the Medical School! That strategy has David Harris written all over it.
In case you missed it Frank and the Regents engineered the demotion of Roth at UNM Health Sciences and he will now come under the purview of the UNM President and Regents. Which leads us to declare that UNM politics are more vicious than a Valencia County cockfight. . .
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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2016