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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Martinez Speech Appraised And Critiqued, Mailing It In For The Final Two Years? Plus: What's In Speaker Egolf's Sandwich?, And: Monkeys In The Roundhouse 

Governor Martinez was less strident than years past as she delivered her next to last State of the State speech to open the '17 legislative session. Perhaps the absence of Senator Michael Sanchez, her arch-enemy who she finally succeeded in ousting last November, made her feel more conciliatory, even as she advocated much the same policies that she has unsuccessfully promulgated for six years. Let's go right to the Senior Alligator analysis:

The Governor’s address was better this year than last when she was visibly shaken by the “Pizza” incident, but her speeches overall get less inspired each year. There was no evidence that the governor would change her stripes or attempt something aspirational in her final 2 years. It appears that she is just going to mail it in for the remainder of her term. When she says things like “it will take courage” or “look at the progress we’ve made,” those statements ring hollow when you have so little to show for it and your state is careening into oblivion. She’s the only Governor that has failed to see her state recover at all from the recession or produce a quarter of economic growth greater than 1%.

The Governor invited several business owners to the speech to single them out for praise but as one of the Alligators pointed out:

Even the profiling of business expansion and location achievements are modest at best when those businesses add few professional, degreed jobs and more and more low-wage jobs. Dean Baldwin Paint, Valley Cold Storage and Precheck are employers that mainly feed from the bottom of the workforce. New Mexico is getting those employers because other states don’t really want or need them. Even when she helps land Facebook, it’s only adding a meager 50 permanent jobs.

And a wall-leaner take:

She seemed to have the most energy for crime issues and children’s issues. But again, she’s not demonstrating that this passion has resulted in really any achievements. Even when announcing the good news that our high school graduation rate rose you don’t get the sense that anyone really feels that great about it given the negativity surrounding her effort to get there and her inability to draw wide support for her approach.

Stylistically, if you look at these speeches over the years, she’s becoming a less compelling public speaker over time -- either that or she’s less interested in making a good impression. She was clearly engaged in 2012 or 2013 but now it has become routine. For instance, when she introduces individuals to highlight a story she has a hard time selling their story, pronouncing their names or acting like she even knows them. This Governor never really grew into this job and now we start the slow march to the end.

The Governor officially became a lame-duck following the '16 election. The speech reinforced the view that she sees no need to swing for the fences and is at peace with a legacy based in traditional Republican orthodoxy of never raising taxes and downsizing state government.

State Sen. Joe Cervantes, a possible '18 gubernatorial candidate, gave the Dem response to Martinez's speech and it can be seen here. His money line? "The State of the State is unacceptable."

FIGHTING REALITY

The Governor prides herself on being a "fighter." Prior to the session she said she would "never stop fighting." But it turns out what she is fighting is the frightful reality that the state has become. In her speech there was no mention of the behavioral health or opioid crisis, the fleeing of the job-hungry Millennials from the state or that we continue to rank near worst in the nation in child well-being, poverty and unemployment. Instead, the Governor presented selected facts to paint a Pollyannish picture at odds with the reality of most everyday New Mexicans. That's how your popularity rating plunges from the 60's to the 36 percent approval Martinez scored in the SurveyUSA late last year.

ARIZONA VS. NM

Here is something from the GOP Governor of Arizona that our legislators might want to mull over. Gov. Martinez is proposing to have all state employees and school teachers take pay cuts by making them pay more into their pension plans but across the border:

Arizona has not projected a shortfall for the current fiscal year or for the upcoming one. The Legislature’s budget analysts expect a surplus of about $24 million will be available for new initiatives next fiscal year, but Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget proposal showed a surplus of more than $110 million. Ducey has proposed a $9.8 billion spending plan. It would include $114 million for K-12 initiatives, including teacher pay raises and free tuition for prospective teachers.

A GAVEL OR A SANDWICH?

Speaker Egolf
At 40, State Rep. Brian Egolf of Santa Fe is one of the younger speakers we've seen in recent history. Here he is Tuesday at the opening of the '17 legislative session accepting the Speaker's gavel from outgoing Speaker Don Tripp, 70, of Socorro.

Egolf's rise to the speakership is a credit to his political acumen, but it also speaks to the relative lack of competition for the top job. When Dems not excited about Egolf's rise were asked if they would support him, many stammered a common refrain: "Who else is there?"

Indeed, many legislative veterans and power players have cashed in their chips during the past decade as the dreadful Great Recession/Stagnation/Despair took hold and refused to end its grip. The ongoing budget crisis has made much less money available for politicians to play with, and politicians who are truly into the power game don't enjoy presiding over a bare bones government. They want to build things.

Egolf is boxed in by the new economic realities of the state. He will now see that even more as he deals with a contentious Republican Governor and a Senate that often says one thing, but then does another.

One wall-leaner, watching Tripp hand the gavel to Egolf, joked: "It's like watching someone hand over a shit sandwich." Well, at least expectations aren't too high. Congratulations, Speaker Egolf.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Union representative Daniel Secrist gave us today's bottom lines as he wrote on Facebook:

I am witnessing the beginning of the 53rd session of the NM State Legislature. Governor Martinez is entering to deliver her official Message. We already know, pretty much, what it will be. My message to all my fellow New Mexicans is simple: This is our circus. These are our monkeys.

Hey, just in time, too. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus announced this week it will close after 146 years. Never fear, the Roundhouse will pick up the slack, even if there's a lot fewer elephants marching around the place.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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