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 

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if it is part of a tax reform package that doesn't raise taxes overall, she would consider reimposing the tax that was repealed beginning in 2005.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.


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.


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.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dem Lt. Gov Candidates Coming in, Apodaca First With TV In Guv Race, Balderas Guv Decision In Next Two Weeks And Some City Council Action 

There are too many possible Dem lieutenant governor candidates to mention but the definite hopefuls are starting to surface.

Former state House Majority Leader Rick Miera tells us he will announce "soon" and supporters of state Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla say he is "99 percent in" and can be expected to join the race after the special legislative session slated for May 24.

Both Padilla and Miera are from ABQ. Taos educator Jeff Carr has been actively campaigning for months. As for the R side, as with their Governor's race their potential lieutenant governor candidates are few and far between. . .

Democrat Jeff Apodaca is the first Dem Guv candidate up with paid TV ads. The commercials are created from an introductory video he made when he officially announced this month. He says the ads are running in the ABQ and El Paso TV markets but isn't saying how much the campaign spent on them. The primary is still over a year away, but Apodaca faces Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham for the nomination and she commands high name in the ABQ metro. Still, that's pretty early paid media. . .

Hector Balderas political consultant Caroline Buerkle says the attorney general will make a decision on an '18 Dem Guv run in "the next two weeks." Insiders are betting that he decides to seek re-election as AG next year and point to a photo of him holding Rep. Grisham in his arms like a bride at a recent Dem state convention. But until we hear it from his lips the watch goes on. . .

ABQ mayoral candidate Dan Lewis is out with a video that firmly confronts the serious issues the city faces--crime and economic stagnation. It's playing to a Facebook audience. Lewis has been on the council for nearly eight years which is both a blessing and a curse. He is well-acquainted with the issues but his opponents will soon begin to fault him for not doing enough about the problems his video effectively outlines. Those opponents include GOP Commissioner Wayne Johnson who could be front and center in leading the opposition against his fellow R.

Is Gov. Martinez Chief of Staff Keith Gardner jealous over this:

One of Gov. Martinez’s deputy chiefs of staff is leaving the Governor’s Office this week to work for a private law firm in Albuquerque. Jeremiah Ritchie, who has worked in the Governor’s Office since 2011, has been one of Martinez’s top legislative negotiators and helped craft a new 22-year gambling compact between the state and five Indian tribes that was signed in 2015.

Gardner has been chief of staff for the governor since she took office in 2011. The Santa Fe rumor mill constantly swirls with reports of his imminent departure.


Our blog on GOP attorney and Gov. Martinez backer Robert Aragon emerging as a leading candidate for city council in District 5 on ABQ's northwest side brought a load of email, including a request for equal time from one of his opponents in the October election. She's Democrat Cynthia Borrego:

I consider myself a moderate as my mother's family (Martinez from Chimayo) we're strong R's, and my Father's family (Borrego's from Santo Nino) we're strong Democrats. I'm a registered Democrat, but because of this experience I am not afraid to reach across the isle in making decisions.  I retired from the city of Albuquerque after working as a City/County Planner for over 28years. In addition, I worked for years with the community (both at the neighborhood and the business levels) developing sustainable communities.

I believe in Albuquerque and that is why I've never left (though I've had other out of state job opportunities), and that is one of the reasons I'm running for office. I truly believe we have a responsibility to do better.

Environmental issues are extremely important to me for a sustainable future for our children. The rising crime in our city is paramount and requires strategies to reign it in, one of which is creating land use design opportunities to curb it. I could continue, but I will wait until my first debate. . .

And we'll be hearing from all the council and mayoral candidates as we cover Mayoral Election '17.


First it was the soda tax now Santa Feans are getting ready to show their middle fingers yet again to city officials:

A city commission charged with determining what salary Santa Fe’s mayor should get when the position changes next year from part-time policymaker to full-time chief executive is considering a pay range of $145,000 to $175,000. . .. It’s also at least $35,000 more than the governor of New Mexico’s $110,000-a-year salary and higher than the mayor of Albuquerque’s $125,000 annual pay.

They call Santa Fe "the city different" and it's doing all it can to live up to that moniker.


In a first draft Tuesday we said the special legislative session is slated for March 24. Of course, that date is long gone. The special has been called by Gov. Martinez for May 24.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Special Wreck Of Legislature On Course As Guv Clash With Dems Continues, Pearce Governor Fantasy Is Meeting Reality And ABQ Mayor Race May Be "All Crime All The Time" 

It's politically clever but also a possible way out of this state budget mess. By calling for the bean counters to take another look at the revenue estimates for the budget year that begins July 1, Senator John Arthur Smith and his colleagues could avert the need for a special session that the Governor has called for May 24. How?

If the NM Supreme Court this month finds that Gov. Martinez's vetoes of the entire higher education budget and funding for the legislature were unconstitutional it would still leave a hole of $70 million, according to the Legislative Finance Committee. However, revenues have been picking up a bit and if the forecast turned out to be better that expected--say an extra $70 million--then the budget would be balanced and the legislature could wait until its January session to again get into the budget weeds.

But Martinez is nothing if not determined to inflict maximum pain on the lawmakers she has come to despise. Her emotions are running hot and she is intent on calling them back for a special session May 24th that could drag on for days since she is calling it without a deal. In fact, she is resisting any attempts to get those new budget estimates even as some members of her own party urge her to do so.

House Minority Leader Nate Gentry says it will take "political courage" to solve the impasse, with both sides giving. But the radical members in his caucus who oppose any revenue enhancement under any circumstances are not prone to compromise.


The Governor, now perhaps in a panic that she has no governing legacy, is clinging to GOP Rep. Jason Harper who along with the conservative media is pushing a complex tax code revision in exchange for a budget deal. Martinez has now put that bill on her call for the special. Talk about gumming up the works--and at a cost of $50,000 for each day of the special.

The Harper bill--inform the aforementioned Santa Fe bean counters--is a complete unknown when it comes to its impact on state revenues. That seems reason enough for it to be kicked to the curb and pronto. And Dem Rep. Bill McCamley, who has collaborated with Harper on this Rube Goldberg scheme, ought to be one of those kicking the hardest:

McCamley, who met with Harper last month to discuss the legislation, said there’s no agreement in place and that Democratic legislators have some serious misgivings about the proposal – including the potential reimposition of a tax on food items.“Anything that is proposed is going to have to be thoroughly analyzed.”

Clearly a special legislative session is not the time to make sweeping and unknowable changes to the tax code. Tax reform--including Harper's--needs consideration but it can and should wait for the next Governor in 2019, instead of being used as a bludgeon over the heads of lawmakers in the midst of a vituperative political atmosphere.

Harper has become a darling of the Tea Party but his bill is completely out of sync with the times as noted by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth. He points out it would do nothing to generate revenue for the state but could end up costing untold millions--just like the ill-advised corporate income tax cut that both parties celebrated in 2013. That rushed cut has cost millions annually and delivered none of the promised jobs.

Faced with an intransigent but unpopular and lame duck governor, the Democratic leadership has been hanging tough in resisting further budget cuts. For them it has been a grueling six plus years of gubernatorial humiliation, intimidation and vindictiveness. They finally seem to have had enough. Good luck with that, Susana.


Pearce and Prez
The fantasy of a Steve Pearce governorship is looking even more Pollyannish in the wake of his vote to repeal Obamacare. The southern NM GOP congressman may now want to watch his back in his own district.

That repeal--even though it's likely doomed in the US Senate--is going to prove widely disliked in New Mexico. Medicaid expansion here has been dramatic and  thousands of residents have qualified for subsidized health insurance under Obamacare.

Nervous Republicans are now watching to see if a "wave" is developing against House R's in the 2018 cycle. The photo of Pearce with Trump congratulating one another on the Obamacare repeal in the White House Rose Garden is not going to play well in populous Dona Ana County which has never been a fan of Pearce and which is growing in influence as the rural population in the sprawling southern district declines.

Pearce's relationship with Trump and VP Pence could be positive for the district but the hard line on Obamacare and border security is breaking against him in heavy Dem Las Cruces and environs.

No big name Democratic candidate has surfaced to run against Pearce next year but you would think that a youngish and well-spoken state Senator like Howie Morales of Silver City might be wondering about a run. He would not have to give up his Senate seat to make the run since it is not up for election until 2020.

Because Peace has dominated the district folks forget that 41 percent of the 2nd CD is Democratic and 36 percent Republican with 19 percent independent.

Ousting an incumbent congressman is a rarity in New Mexico, but the Obamacare debacle and the Republican obsession with the border and immigration are pushing the conservative Pearce further into the arms of Trump and even further to the right than what may be good for his political health.

Pearce will turn 70 in a few months and what would be a whimsical run for governor would be out of character. Whether the Dems let Pearce rest easy in his own backyard in '18 is the question now on the table.


Crime always dominates an ABQ mayoral race, but against this backdrop this year's contest could be like one of Governor Martinez's legislative sessions: "All Crime All The Time":

. . . Since 2010, the amount of home burglaries reported to Albuquerque police range anywhere from 300 to 500 per month.That amounts to more than 4,000 home break-ins per year. The worst month on record in recent years for home burglaries in Albuquerque was in August of 2013. There were 509 that month, compared to 348 last August.

Is this ongoing crime wave the biggest failure of leadership in the modern history of ABQ?


Pete Dinelli, former ABQ mayoral candidate, city councilor, public safety director, attorney and now an ABQ blogger,  reports on his recent trip to New Orleans with wife Betty:

We ran into one of Joe Monahan's sources and asked her who the next Mayor and Governor would be and she refused to comment.

Boy, does that Lady Gator have a lot to say, but only to us. Pete and Betty get a finder's fee but you'll get the exclusive, insider story of the ABQ mayor's race right here.


She's all yours, DC. We had our fill:

The Senate confirmed President Trump's pick to lead the Air Force, the first of his military branch leaders to get through the upper chamber. Senators voted 76-22 for Heather Wilson to be the next Air Force secretary, with only a simple majority needed to approve her nomination.

The vote came one day after Wilson's longtime mentor--former NM US Senator Pete Domenici--turned 85. Now they have a reason to party together again. . .

We note the passing of behind-the-scenes ABQ political player Lino Martinez. The Rio Arriba County native was a get-out-the-vote expert of the old school variety whose family says participated in every state election of the past 60 years as a volunteer, candidate or elected official. His understanding of La Politica and determination to be on the winning side benefited a number of hopefuls including ABQ Mayor Ken Schultz who served in the 80's. Lino Martinez was 85. His full obituary is here

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