Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dateline Santa Fe: More Insider Updates, Plus: Bill's Ivory Tower Diplomacy; Change At UNM? And: Rep. Lujan: Too Green Or Not? 

We're keeping it in Santa Fe as we are now only 10 days away from the finish line for Session 2009. Lawmakers and the Guv are dodging a budget bullet because the feds have come charging to the rescue with piles of stimulus money. Here's how one of our experienced insiders explains how things are playing out on the state's #1 issue:

We are balancing this year's budget and next relying entirely on the federal stimulus money. That federal money is going to be spent now, and will allow the state to bank as surplus what would have otherwise been required in this year's budget. This high surplus will then be there to get us through next year's budget. After that, nobody knows.

Revenues are going to be woefully inadequate to maintain the current spending. The entire plan right now hinges on an assumption the economy will recover to pre-recession growth within two years. If so, things will be fine. If not there will be few alternatives other than large tax increases or large cuts to education. Time to pay the piper but under a new Governor.

As for Big Bill, our trackers say not much has changed with him from earlier in this 60 day session.

There is little leadership or pressure coming from Fourth Floor. There are typically Cabinet Secretaries or Governor's staff in committees and in the hallways. Not this session. The Governor is rarely seen or heard from. Past sessions have been filled with daily press conferences in the Rotunda, the cabinet room, and otherwise a full media blitz. Not this session...With no capital outlay to hold over anybody's head, the Governor and the leadership have lost a great deal of leverage over individual members and individual votes.


Some more of what they are saying in Santa Fe:

The most important vote in NM was not in November of '08 but in January of '09 when the State Senate elected Tim Jennings President Pro Tem of the Senate. He was given the ability to "stack" all Senate committees to ensure that the effect of the newly elected Senators was completely nullified.

We'll have more of the inside story of Session '09 tomorrow.

Guv at UNM
We'll cut to the chase on Big Bill's meeting with University of New Mexico faculty Monday. After the session he was asked if he continues to support UNM Board of Regents Chair Jamie Koch for a second six year term. The answer was yes, but it was not unequivocal.

Q: Did the conversation today change your feelings about Jamie Koch at all or do you support him just as strongly as before?

A. I made no commitments. I am going to come back and have another meeting with this faculty group. I am going to absorb what they said to me. I think in the future there is merit to consider that faculty members should be members of regents and I will seriously consider that in upcoming appointments.

There is a bit of wiggle room in that statement for Bill to change his mind about Jamie whose confirmation is pending before the State Senate. If the Guv thinks there is merit in putting a member of the faculty on the regents, he could do it now by withdrawing the Koch nomination.

Insiders report some faculty at the meeting with Bill also thought he left the door open to naming someone other than Koch, a former chairman of the NM Dem Party who has clashed with faculty over administrative salaries, hirings seen as political and funding priorities.

The faculty voted no confidence last month in President David Schmidly, executive vice president David Harris as well as Jamie Koch. The Guv agreed to the faculty's request for a state audit of UNM and also said there will be another meeting with faculty.

Richardson's Ivory Tower diplomacy comes late in the game, after UNM has been torn asunder and perhaps confidence in its present leadership permanently lost. His critics say the Guv bears a fair share of responsibility for La Politica holding sway over campus life. The chief executive's slight wavering on the Koch appointment shows he is aware of the damage done.

Complete audio of the Guv's news conference at UNM is here.


NM Attorney General Gary King disappointed a host of would-be successors when he told the blog Monday that he is "leaning toward" running for re-election as AG in 2010, and not the Dem Guv nomination. The list of Dems who could be expected to seriously consider the AG run if Gary bowed out includes ABQ State Rep. Al Park, former NM Dem Chairman John Wertheim, Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks, former Big Bill Counsel Geno Zamora and District Attorney Lemuel Martinez. Martinez and Zamora lost to King in '06.

It's a lot of political talent King is leaving benched if he sticks with his no Guv run decision.

Rep. Lujan
Northern Dem Congressman Ben Ray Lujan is off to a quick start, but his constant beating of the "green jobs" drum is straining some political ears. He was at it again this week before the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce:

He encouraged innovation with a focus on green jobs and renewable energy to get our economy back on track and create jobs for businesses across the country...

Green is good, for sure. But experts are raising questions about how many jobs it can actually deliver and how long it will take? Right now, financing for green projects has withered, except for federal investment. And how many of these green jobs will be for working women who comprise a major percentage of the work force? The new congressman may want to broaden his economic circle of advice as well as his message as he works hard to improve the business climate in his district much of which ranks as poor.

Stalling the inevitable downsizing of Los Alamos Labs, promoting tourism and paying attention to oil and natural gas exploration--not just alternative forms of energy--are all items some observers suggest for the young lawmaker's plate. Going green gives Lujan a distinct political identify which the consultants love, but he's going to be around a long time. Some expect more than one trick from a very energetic pony.

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