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Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Presidents Day; Here's To Barack And Branson, Plus: Roundhouse Frowns Over Susana Budget Blocking, More Fooling Over Food Tax And Slow Down, Mayor Javier  

It's Presidents Day 2017 and look at who has been enjoying himself of late. It's none other than President Obama relaxing in the island paradise provided by British billionaire Richard Branson.

You remember him. About a decade ago Branson teamed with Gov. Big Bill and launched New Mexico's Spaceport America with the aim of sending the first tourists into space. But the ticket holders who have put up as much as $250k each are still waiting. And so is New Mexico for the long promised benefits.

The Spaceport near T or C is bleeding cash and requires a subsidy of several million a year from the legislature to keep the lights on.  That's no reason to smile, but as you can see Sir Richard doesn't have to worry about pesky critics in the desolate NM desert, not when he has a relaxed Obama to pal with. Besides, who needs to fly when you have such  a nice boat?

ROUNDHOUSE FROWNS

It's still mostly frowns in Santa Fe. A deal to close yet another budget deficit founders as the Governor continues to push back against raising taxes or fees to close what is actually not that big of a hole compared to recent years. They need about $120 million to balance the budget for the year that begins July 1 and another $100 million to build up state reserves so we don't get whacked with another downgrade of our bonds which makes it more expensive to borrow.mHouse Democrats have come with what would seem to strike most as a quite reasonable package that causes little pain:

Democratic legislators announced a push for new sources of income for state government  through taxes on nonprofit hospitals, Internet sales, trucking permits and vehicle registrations. . (They) said the package could raise an additional $214 million during the fiscal year beginning in July. . .House Speaker Egolf warned that the alternative would be drastic spending cuts of 2 percent or more involving education and Medicaid healthcare

Sounds easy, right? But look at this head scratching response from the Republican Governor's office:

The governor is open to true tax reform, but she will not let lawmakers bail out Santa Fe on the backs of our families.

But how does increasing trucking permit fees--many of them from out of state--hurt NM families? And as for having the gross receipts tax apply to Amazon and the like, even GOP state reps like Larry Larranaga support that. So why does the Governor continue to put funding for the public schools and Medicaid at risk? Because she can .

This is the third governor in a row who has developed a stubbornness even as their popularity has plunged in the polls. The fact is that the executive branch is much more powerful than the legislature compared to the old days. Its power to command the microphone has only grown in the new media age. Also, lame duck Governors like Martinez can gummy up the works for little apparent reason and without fear of retribution because their hopes for a future in elective politics dissolved when the public tired of them and their policies.

FOOD TAX FOOLING

What would truly be balancing the budget on the backs of NM families would be reinstating the tax on food and slashing the public schools budget even more.

It's amusing to see GOP Rep. Jason Harper, the former chairman of the House tax committee until the R's lost their House majority in November, continue to paw away at reinstating the food tax. He's like a chihuahua fighting a pit bull who has taken his bone away. The big dog ain't giving it back, Jason. Or as the acting chairman of the tax committee, Rep. Carl Trujillo, puts it, the food tax is "off the table."

Meanwhile, because Dems have not filled the budget vacuum with their own ideas, Harper's esoteric proposal to "reform" the state's gross receipts tax as a panacea for the state's systemic budget woes continues to be treated to full hearings. Why? From what we gather it says nothing new about the personal income tax, the corporate income tax or the capital gains tax. Just throw out all the gross receipts exemptions and VoilĂ ! Now you have protected your GOP base voters and you keep your corporate campaign donors happy.

Rather than dignify the convoluted plan, Chairman Trujillo could and should kill the bill with alacrity and get going on a majority party reform measure. The Dems do have a majority up there, don't they?

SLOW DOWN, MAYOR

A $15 million deficit just resolved and now this?:

A proposal by Mayor Javier Gonzales to hand out 5 percent raises to all Santa Fe city government employees would cost taxpayers four times more than originally stated. Gonzales said the city Finance Department erred when it said the proposed across-the-board pay raises would cost between $700,000 and $1 million annually. The actual cost is closer to $4.1 million a year, he said.

Most city employees are probably happy just to be on the job, never mind getting a 5 percent pay raise that could again put their positions in jeopardy. Slow down, Mayor.

700 AND COUNTING

Our colleagues at the ABQ Free Press answer a question recently posed here: How many employees are left at Rio Rancho's Intel plant that just a few years ago employed over 6,000? The paper says it is told by former Intel employees that the work force there is down to 700. Intel isn't talking.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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