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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

State Budget Wrangling Comes Amid More Damning Economic News. Plus: Lujan Grisham And Balderas Eye Each Other's Fresh Money Reports 

Amid the budget chaos in Santa Fe comes news that illustrates the slow and painful economic death spiral that has enveloped the state. Intel in Rio Rancho has finally confirmed that the plant shed 700 workers in 2016 and employment there now stands at only 1,200, compared to 7,000 in its heyday. It was little solace that rumors had current employment levels there even lower. The bottom line is, like so many others, Intel is pulling out of here.

The state suffers the highest jobless rate in the nation as well as a long-term stagnant economy. Bekin's moving company remains one of ABQ's larger advertisers and the state's largest city, its "economic engine," looks increasingly like a low-end border town, checkered with payday loan and dollar stores and afflicted by a maddening crime wave that authorities refuse to take responsibility for.

Compared to all that, the wrangling over a $6.1 billion state budget (the same amount as it was 10 years ago) is small potatoes. Gov. Martinez's over-the-top veto of the entire higher education budget in an effort to get her way with the Legislature is only going to worsen the perception that New Mexico is a place best left to its own devices.

While ABQ takes on border town status, Santa Fe looks more and more like a banana republic, with a Governor who seems to be reciting lines from The Madness of King George.

Martinez's approval rating is an anemic 42 percent and probably sinking further as we speak. The doors to any political future for her closed long ago. But she refuses to march quietly or cooperatively into her political oblivion that will begin January 1, 2019.

Only a radicalized pocket of state House Republicans prevent a total repudiation of this governorship. Most Senate Republicans have already abandoned her as shown by the recent override of one of her vetoes. And even many House R's are stunned by her refusal to sign portions of the budget that even they supported.

In 2002, both Republicans and Democrats banded together to pull the state back from the brink when GOP Governor Johnson's stubborn authoritarianism had him performing his version of the aforementioned King George. They did so by calling an "extraordinary session" of the Legislature for the first time in state history and passing a veto proof budget and going home.

Johnson, never one to take governing too seriously, laughed off the historic rebuke and went on to enjoy the fortune he made in his pre-gubernatorial years from doing deals with Intel. Back then the wreckage of a governorship stood out. Today's repeat performance by Martinez just seems like another piece of litter on a battered economic and social landscape.

PLUG THE ABYSS

Here's a sign that Martinez is sensing that she is looking into the abyss after her veto party, including that tax hike package:

Martinez told reporters Monday she could support extending the state’s gross receipts tax to Internet sales — closing a loophole, not raising taxes, per se — but would not support other proposals increasing taxes on sales of gas, or new or used vehicles.

THE MONEY RACE

If the race for the '18 Dem nomination for Governor were between ABQ US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Hector Balderas it would already be pretty close--at least when in it comes to the money race. In the first finance reports of the Guv contest in reports covering mid-December through early April, Grisham reports $741,000 in cash on hand and Balderas reports $683,000 in the bank. Grisham announced her candidacy in December. Balderas is on the fence, contemplating whether seek re-election as AG or make the Guv run. He could use his money for either bid.

Grisham raised $892,000 in the reporting period and spent $151,000. Her big donors included ABQ's Marble Brewery which came with $5,500; ABQ's Radiology Associates came with $5,500 for the '18 primary and another maximum donation of $5,500 for the '18 general. The Ft. Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, which hopes someday to open a casino in southern NM, gave $5,500. ABQ Dem state Sen. Bill O'Neill, a possible Dem Lt Governor candidate, donated $1,000. Grisham's big expense was for online communications and consulting to Ann Lewis Strategies in DC.

Balderas raised the lion's share of his money from major law firms and attorneys, including $5,500 for the primary and $5,500 for the general from Baron and Budd out of Dallas. The AG had expenditures of only $20,000 for the period. His campaign manager said:

If the Attorney General decides to run for Governor he is confident he will have the resources to secure the Democratic nomination. Attorney General Balderas remains focused on protecting the health and safety of New Mexico's families, businesses and environment.


Grisham said of her fund-raising:

We have tapped into a groundswell of support from New Mexicans who want real leadership in the Governor’s Office. I was the first to jump in the race because I recognized the energy and hunger for change in our state.

The Grisham camp also pointed out that she raised all her $892k in the three month period, while Balderas started the period with $400,000 and added $211k during that time.

Whatever the spin, if the race included both Balderas and Grisham neither would have to go to the local payday loan store to make campaign ends meet.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017

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