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Thursday, May 25, 2017

At The Special: Robbing Peter To Pay Paul; Borrowing Scheme to Balance Budget Decried By Senators But They Pass It Anyway, Plus: Targeting Pearce But With Who?  

Could you imagine if Bill Richardson proposed that the state borrow nearly $100 million to balance its budget and replenish its reserves? They would probably hang him in effigy the same night they burned Zozobra. But Republican Governor Susana Martinez--she of the never, ever raise taxes school of thinking (expect if it's a food tax to slam the poor)--is backing this borrow from Peter to pay Paul scheme at the special legislative session and is getting the support of not only her fellow R's but weary Democrats:

New Mexico could end up borrowing money to help it survive a budget crisis. The state Senate voted 38-3 on Wednesday to pass a proposal that could raise about $100 million for the general fund — in part by borrowing the money. The complex bond transaction would essentially take the state’s capacity to borrow money to build big capital projects and convert it into cash to help boost reserves or pay operating expenses. No one seemed to liked the idea. But senators on both sides of the aisle said the state’s financial crisis demanded action and that Gov. Martinez’s administration had pushed for the move.

What happened to the fiscally conservative Republicans who abhor such debt maneuvers? Well, they dislike even more the prospect of taxing their wealthy contributors and constituencies. With the weary Democrats unable to fend her off, it will be future taxpayers who are saddled with the irresponsibility of the chief executive and the acquiescence of the Dems and get stuck with paying the bill. But, hey, everyone gets home in time for the Memorial Day barbecue.

As Dem Senator Joe Cervantes tweeted:

We can't muster 2/3 of Legislators to pay current expenses of State. So tonight we're bonding 10 yrs to finance the budget on the backs of our kids.

That two-thirds vote he refers to is the number needed to override the Governor's vetoes and implement mild tax increases to raise the money to balance the budget. Instead, we get years of debt to pay off. Go home, Santa Fe, go home.

TARGETING PEARCE

The national Dems said this week they are "targeting" the seat held by GOP southern NM Congressman Steve Pearce, but they aren't saying who will be aiming at the target.

He does seem more vulnerable than years past, given his vote to repeal Obamacare and his general allegiance to the president who is having popularity troubles but could recover by late next year when voters trek to the polls.

Ejecting a sitting congressman will take millions of dollars and a charismatic challenger. The Dems previously targeted the seat in 2014 but the candidacy of onetime Eddy County Commissioner Rocky Lara ended in disaster. Pearce says he's toying with running for Governor in '18 but one of the factors that will probably keep him put is the much better Democratic chances of taking over his district when he does leave the seat. (In a May 9 blog we incorrectly reported the registration figures for the southern 2nd congressional district. They are: 41% Dem, 36% Republican and 19% independent.

SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE

There has been very little for the minority Democrats in DC to celebrate in these early months of the Trump presidency, but Jon Goldstein, director of legislative affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund wants to point out one rare Dem win that he says will have great impact on New Mexico:

Great news for New Mexico as a vote to repeal the BLM methane waste rule failed on the Senate floor This means the rule limiting methane waste and pollution on federal and tribal lands remains in effect. It’s a huge victory for New Mexico especially where more natural gas is wasted ($100 million worth) from these lands each year than in any other state. More natural gas captured means more royalty revenue to the state budget where it is sorely needed right now.

This was also a victory for Senator Tom Udall who led the effort over many months to protect the rule from repeal. And Senator Udall wasn’t alone. Senator Heinrich was right there with him. Also worth noting, the earlier fight against the repeal in the House was led by Congresswoman Lujan Grisham and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan while Attorney General Hector Balderas and State Auditor Tim Keller have championed the issue back home in New Mexico as well.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Reader Tom Miles mulls over the recent scandal at the UNM athletic department in which the school spent $64,000 to send the department director, staffers and local businessmen on a Scottish golf vacation:

It seems like almost all institutions refuse to consider any change that goes against preconceived notions and habits. UNM and lots of others either refused to consider, or ignored willfully, the demographic tectonic shift of retiring baby boomers. Every university “knows” and acts like big-10 football income is as important as higher education for students … and raises tuition, woo’s wealthy sports contributions, and treats f’ball coaches like untouchable Saudi princes accordingly. NM planned as though $100 barrel oil was the new normal and we got huge tax cuts and RailRunner.Way back when, GM “knew” what kinds of cars were best for Americans. That worked for a long while … until it didn’t.

The State Auditor is reviewing the money spent on the Scotland golf junket.

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