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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Supremes Won't Get Involved In Battle Over Guv's Vetoes, No New Taxes Ever? Martinez Waffles On Key Pledge As She Entertains Food Tax; Key Lawmakers Say No Way, Plus: "The Nate Nine"; The House R's Who Did Not Sign Brief Urging Supremes To Back Martinez Vetoes 

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It's back to the drawing board for the state budget. The NM Supreme court has rebuffed the Legislature in its tussle against Gov. Martinez over her vetoes:

The state Supreme Court on Thursday denied a petition by legislators challenging line-item vetoes by Gov. Susana Martinez that wiped out funding for higher education and the Legislature. The court’s order noted that Martinez has called a special session of the Legislature to begin May 24 to deal with the state budget and taxes.

Dems were hoping the court would rule against Martinez's vetoes, making the path to a budget agreement easier. As things stand now the two sides are gridlocked and a special session is scheduled for May 24. Meantime. . . 
Her desire for a legacy of any kind appears to be driving Gov. Martinez away from the one legacy she supposedly savors most--her pledge to never raise taxes. In an abrupt about face she has walked back her longstanding opposition to a food tax, saying if it is part of a tax reform package that doesn't raise taxes overall, she would consider reimposing the tax that was repealed beginning in 2005.

But rather than giving her a legacy as a tax reformer, she risks the lasting nickname of Hypocrite in Chief. Take a look.

“The governor has long opposed – and continues to oppose – a tax on food and groceries in New Mexico,” said Martinez’s press secretary, Enrique Knell. –The New Mexican “Municipal League’s plan to renew food tax gets chilly reception – 12/19/2014

The governor has long opposed and continues to oppose reinstating a tax on food and groceries in New Mexico,” said Martinez spokesperson Michael Longeran in a statement. KRQE News 13 – “Food tax reemerges as budget worries grow.” 02/04/16

And here are many more quotes where the Governor vowed not to support a food tax. It turns out "never" may not be very long after all in Susana's world.

The food tax is dreaded by those who champion the middle class and working poor and the hard-fought repeal of it has become a rallying point for them. If legislative Democrats start fiddling with it--as they did by supporting repeated tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations--they may as well turn the keys of the Roundhouse over to the R's.

Fortunately, even conservative Dems like Sen. John Arthur Smith, who in the past has favored bringing back the tax, is pronouncing it dead on arrival in the upcoming special session.

Even as Martinez was flirting with reimposing a food tax, the Wednesday news reinforced why that is some of the most half-assed public policy we've heard around here in decades:

For the second year in a row, New Mexico ranks as the second worst state in the country when it comes to having hungry children. The Map the Meal Gap 2017 report just came out and looked at how hunger is a problem across the country. According to the study, one in four children is at risk of hunger in New Mexico. Overall, including adults, one in six is at risk.

THE NATE NINE

While Martinez tries to divide the Dems over the food tax her own house is deeply divided. Let's dive deep with the Alligators and explore "The Nate Nine."

The NM Supreme Court next Monday will consider a legislative challenge to Governor Martinez's vetoes of the entire higher education funding as well as money to run the Legislature. 23 House Republicans signed onto a legal brief that urges the high court to reject the challenge. But there are 32 House Republicans. Why didn't all of them sign, most notably House Minority Leader Nate Gentry?

Isn't it interesting that if those nine happened to joined with the 38 House Democrats they would be able to override Governor Martinez's vetoes? The override votes are already there in the Senate where the R's are evenly split in their support of Martinez.

The threat of enough House R's balking and putting an end to this budget debacle by overriding vetoes remains a long shot, but at a minimum The Nate Nine seem to have put themselves in position to leverage the Governor over the budget deal that finally emerges. That's what happens when a Guv's approval rating is at 42 percent (or lower) and she's a lame duck.

The Nate Nine are from the ABQ metro with the exception of Rep. Yvette Harrell of Alamogordo. The others are: Gentry, Reps. Dines, Larranaga, Fajardo, Rehm, Powdrell, Tim Lewis and Maestas-Barnes.

These lawmakers are representative of the business establishment wing of the GOP. Tea Party sympathizers are notably absent.

We've noted repeatedly that Rep. Gentry's NE Heights district is getting more blue by the month and he is ripe for another strong Dem challenge in 2018. Now here's a twist on that: Our Alligators report that Gentry's first challenge next year could be in the Republican primary.

Danielle Harden, a teacher and daughter of former state senator and prominent lobbyist Clint Harden, is said to be considering a challenge to Gentry in next year's primary. Even if she's only floating her name that news deserves a cry of "Boom!"

Surely, Gentry doesn't need to support a food tax or further cuts to our public schools. That would alienate his own primary voters as well as Democratic voters, right?  What he and his eight allies could use is a pragmatic budget deal that walks the Governor back from the edge of the abyss and puts the budget mess far behind them.

The Nate Nine team is about to take the field at the special session. Stay tuned.

TV TALK

When the Alligators saw that the Jeff Apodaca campaign for Governor was not saying how much it was spending on the TV ad buy it put up in ABQ and El Paso, they got busy. They report that the Dem Guv candidate made a smallish buy for the week of May 3-9 of $10,000 in the ABQ market and $5,000 in the El Paso TV market.

A buy like that is aimed at getting the bragging rights that you were "the first" candidate up with paid TV. Apodaca got that, but the small buy is not going to put the fear of God in any of his rivals.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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(c)NM POLITICS WITH JOE MONAHAN 2017
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