Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Big Bill's Cash Cow; No, Not The Campaign Cash, Your Cash, Plus: More Cool Political Stuff From The Home Of New Mexico Politics 

With his re-elect a foregone conclusion in the political chattering circles, Big Bill moved this week to preempt any images of a lame duck and said if he wins four more years expect another "expansive" legislative session in 07.' The only thing that could stop the peripatetic Guv is a plunge in state revenues. If he doesn't have any dough, the baking oven could be shut off. But a check with the director and chief numbers cruncher at the Legislative Finance Committee Tuesday reveals that the chances of that happening are slim to none.

"We are showing strength across the board" in revenue collection, informed David Abbey, staff director of the powerful LFC, who added that for every dollar uptick in the price of oil our little state nets $3.5 million a year. But the under covered story is natural gas. "That's more important than oil," he informs.

Get this. For every dollar spike up in natural gas another $130 million flows into the state kitty. Oil in New York closed near $69 a barrel Tuesday, near it's all-time record. Gas is down from its all-time high of about $12 bucks per thousand cubic feet and now trades near $7, still historically high.

"We are looking at over a billion for the General Fund this fiscal year in severance taxes and again next year. About 75 percent of that will come from natural gas and 22 percent from oil," crunched numbers cruncher Abbey.

The total take from oil and gas revenues for this fiscal year will be an incredible $2 billion, and another $2 billion next year if prices hold. Only a dramatic correction will end this decade long party. But Big Bill has already dodged the bullet. He's been blessed with soaring energy prices and historic revenues each year of his term. But If the good times continue to roll, excuses for our state ranking near the bottom in key measurements is going to wear mighty thin.


Big Bill sure isn't a Toney Anaya. Wasn't it 1986 when Guv Toney had to call a special session of the Legislature to deal with the impact of plummeting energy prices? Maybe that day will come again, but until it does Governor Big Bill is going to be as "expansive" as the state's bulging bank accounts allow.

This seems fine with Mr. and Mrs. New Mexico, but with billions still piling up, will the day soon arrive when they start demanding that more cash be placed directly in their pockets? Could that day come in Legislative session 07'?


Lem Martinez for NM Attorney GeneralSome cleanup on the AFSCME union endorsement of Dem Tom Buckner over Jeff Armijo for the state auditor nod in the June primary. Carter Bundy, political director for AFSCME, was accused by Jeff's uncle, Socorro city councilor Dan Armijo, of having a "vendetta" against Jeff, but Bundy and one of the five committee members making the endorsement, Larry Franco, told me that's not so. They said Bundy does not vote on the endorsements, the committee does and the committee went with Buckner because he was "most qualified." Also, it is Bundy's girlfriend, not wife, who works for the TVI foundation. Armijo is a member of the TVI Governing Board.

And I blogged that Dem secretary of state contender Letitia Montoya of Santa Fe won the AFSCME endorsement over Shirley Hooper, Stephanie Gonzales and Mary Herrera, but I forgot to tell you why. It's because she sits on the public employee retirement board and the government employee union, reports Bundy, was impressed with her work there.

Still one more. Dem Land Commissioner candidate Ray Powell wonders why we didn't mention that he won the AFSCME endorsement over Jim Baca. Well, we just did.


Some newspaper headlines Tuesday said that Big Bill chief of staff Dave Contarino will be campaign manager for the Guv's re-elect, but that title will remain with Amanda Cooper. (See Tuesday's blog.) Contarino will take the title of chairman and lead the overall re-elect. Expect Contarino to be heavily involved in media strategy, the critical TV spots, message development and handling the "free" media....

If Amanda, Dave or the Guv need any legal advice while hanging out in their downtown ABQ campaign headquarters, they won't have to look far. Sam Bregman, attorney for indicted ex-Treasurer Robert Vigil, has an office in the same building. If Sam can't help, the Guv's staff can chat it up with Attorney General Patricia Madrid who also has space there. All of this must be awfully comforting to Amanda and Contarino. You know how hard it is to find a good lawyer.....


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