Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Quiet Roundhouse Thus Far; An Update, Plus: The Spaceport Blues? Voters Question Tax, And: The Loneliness Of Emily; We Explain 

Yes, the Legislature is a bust so far, but that's not unusual with just a couple of weeks passed in a 60 day session. Maybe the whole thing will eventually break down into joyous chaos, but there are no signs of it yet. Blogger Steve Terrell has bought a dozen whoopee cushions and will use them to try to sow discord among the solons so he and the other Roundhouse regulars have something controversial to write about.

The new state House Minority Leader, Tom Taylor of Farmington, says sessions like this one where there is a lot of money to spend, are the toughest. Maybe it is for the lawmakers fighting over the pork, but not for the general public. With a surplus of over $700 million, following huge surpluses in the previous three sessions, we have not seen a session painful to the public since Gary Johnson was Governor and he repeatedly used his veto to rein in spending.

A tough session is when there is no money and every imaginable constituency is pleading for help and legislators are forced to make tough calls. Giving a construction pork project $10 million instead of $20 million is not the type of decision that should keep a lawmaker up at night. One wonders whether this current Legislature and Governor will experience a truly tough session, where the stakes are such things as layoffs and adequate healthcare spending. The financial wizards in state government are saying we can expect a lot of volatility in the price of oil and natural gas, but nothing has yet led them to decrease state revenue estimates, so pass that bacon, please.


All this begs the question of why the Governor and many legislators are asking the good people of Dona Ana county to raise their taxes to finance a spaceport. The critics are making their voices known, even picketing the Governor when he pushed for the quarter cent gross receipts tax hike at a recent appearance. With over $14 billion in state investment accounts and the aforementioned $700 million state surplus, the administration is being charged with not efficiently prioritizing statewide projects to avoid a tax increase in an era of epic surpluses and for cutting a lousy deal with the billionaire who will be the main tenant for the southern NM project.

They are good questions. While the Done Ana county commission waxes enthusiastic about raising taxes in the low per capita income county and is set to put it to a vote in early February, a considerable number of voters may want some explanations, not just cheerleading.


Is there any columnist, editorial writer, pundit or blogger (except the hate bloggers) who is not genuflecting at the altar of Big Bill's Prez bid? A Governor could not ask for a better kick off from his home-state press, but that near unanimity sparked our contrary streak so we we went searching for at least one NM scribe who still clings to cynicism as their ethos, even when it comes to the mighty popular Governor Bill Richardson.

Inside the Capital columnist Jay Miller came close with this mini-dose of realism: "Right now the first serious female candidate and an inspiring African-American candidate are trumping him (Richardson)."

But in all the media corners of this Enchanted Land I found only one ink-stained wretch (or carpal tunnel afflicted one) who actually threw a pail of cold water on the Big Bill candidacy. It was Emily Esterson writing for New West.

"My prediction is Richardson gets knocked out early but becomes a potential VP candidate fairly fast." So wrote Emily in what has to be one of the loneliest statements in New Mexico media.

Of course, her prediction is more probable than the Guv actually winning the Dem prez nod, but don't worry Bill acolytes, her realism does not appear to be infectious. There's a hometown steamroller out there paving a path for this candidacy and it has what Bill will need in the months ahead--momentum.


The latest radio ratings for the ABQ market hit the streets this week, showing the state's largest station, 50,000 watt news-talker 770 KKOB-AM, has steadied the ship somewhat after experiencing a precipitous 20 percent ratings slip. Arbitron reports it has bounced back to an 8.4 percent in overall listener share, up from its nadir of 6.9 percent. The station, a source of political discussion around much of New Mexico, has taken a less conservative edge in its morning programming with new host Bob Clark.

And if you want more on New Mexico talk radio, pick up the February issue of New Mexico Magazine where you will find my article on that very topic.

Glad to have you with us today. Stop by again soon.

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