Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Guv Food Tax Veto Appears To Loom, Plus: More Flare-Ups On Pearce Social Security Stance, And: Making Big Money In Hobbs, Also: DC Chile Pangs 

  • The Governor vetoed the food tax today.

  • “I am not willing to put this burden on working families in the form of an unfair tax on food. I agree with those who call this a cruel tax. It is especially cruel during the worst financial crisis New Mexico has ever experienced."

Democrats across New Mexico are getting ready to exhale as Big Bill today is expected to veto the hyper-controversial food tax that if allowed to take effect could give Republicans an unexpected gift and potentially change the calculus of the 2010 race for governor. The AP reported late Tuesday that all signs pointed to a veto, but until the Guv makes it official, the Dems will continue to hold their breath.

A key aide to Bill said he thinks he can veto the food tax, part of a package of tax increases approved by the recent special session of the Legislature, without running into legal challenges. A veto would mean the administration would have to find $68 million in revenue elsewhere.

Richardson was the one who originally proposed repeal of the food tax in his first term, but has been taking hits for not fighting hard enough to keep the partial reinstatement from reaching his desk.

The food tax is especially lightning in a bottle now because it is lower and middle class New Mexicans who are on the front lines of the Great Recession, losing their jobs in record numbers, while the professional classes take hits to their bottom lines, but mostly retain their positions.

Supporters of the food tax argue the working poor would not be hurt by it because they get food stamps. The elitism of that argument--not to mention its shaky credibility-- is putting fear into the hearts of Dem politicos across the board, as it reminds them of 1994 when an increase in the gas tax played a key role in the defeat of Governor Bruce King by Republican Gary Johnson.

The food tax is also causing an identity crisis in the self-described party of "working families." If Democrats are not against this tax that hurts those families the most, what are their core principles and why should those families continue to vote for them?

The Senate, House and Governor's office are all controlled by the Democrats.

Soon-to-be Dem Guv nominee Diane Denish, who initially demurred when asked if she would veto the tax if she were Governor, had her campaign tell us last week she would cast a veto if it could be done legally. Alligators and analysts questioned her political judgment on this hottest of issues when she failed to immediately and loudly renounce the tax upon its approval by the Legislature.

If Richardson, as expected, does cast a veto it will be a monkey off of Di's back--a monkey that has been growing heavier by the day.

The Guv will announce his decision about 11:30 a.m. We'll update the action.


Fallout from our blogging this week on congressional candidate Steve Pearce's position on partially privatizing Social Security. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, citing Pearce's assertion here that it is not "factually correct" to say he supports privatization, came with this headline:

Steve Pearce vs. Steve Pearce: Pledged To Privatize Social Security ; Medicare, Now Trying to Pretend Like It Didn't Happen..

We blogged this week that Dems were getting ready to unload the Social Security bomb on Pearce who is seeking to win back the congressional seat he held for three terms and which was won by Dem Harry Teague in 2008 when Pearce gave it up to run for the US senate.

But Pearce's campaign manager gave us a statement disputing Pearce's past support for privatization, so we went back and checked the February 6, 2005 ABQ Journal article where Pearce's stance was discussed:

Pearce...said he agrees with the president's call to partially privatize the system but not as drastically as has been proposed. He suggested a plan that would allow workers to divert into a private account a portion of their 6.2 percent Social Security tax--but only on the first $50,000 of income. Social Security tax drawn from income between $50,001 and $90,000, at which point Social Security taxes are no longer imposed, would still go to the trust fund under Pearce's proposal.

It seems pretty clear that Pearce favored partial privatization. Pearce's campaign did not respond to an inquiry for comment on the Journal article. It was also made an issue when Dem Tom Udall defeated Pearce in the '08 US Senate contest.

The surfacing of the Social Security issue signals that while the R's have had Teague playing defense on healthcare and cap and trade, Teague and the D's have some offensive plays of their own. Stay tuned.

Eric Honeyfield
We didn't realize running the city of Hobbs (pop. 30,000) was so complicated. But it must be because the city council there has just rehired its city manager at a cool price tag of $145,000. That's nearly what ABQ's equivalent of a city manager--chief administrative officer David Campbell--pulls down. Campbell gets $155,000 a year.

But that's not all. Hobbs city manager Eric Honeyfield has won approval from the Hobbs council to "double-dip." He will also draw a state retirement check of $90,o00 a year for 25 years of government service (he's a former city manager for Raton and Gallup) on top of the $145,000 for running the small SE NM city. That's $235,000 a year. Never mind that Hobbs is cutting projects and leaving vacant positions unfilled as it copes with a big revenue shortfall.

Somehow we don't think that represents the "small town values" that Hobbs native daughter and Lt. Governor Diane Denish trumpets in her Guv campaign.


That's how many of us there are in the ABQ metro, according to the US Census Bureau. We now rank 57th in population among all metros in the USA.


We don't think this mega bear market is going to end in New Mexico until the government classes feel more pain. That means actual layoffs and/or furloughs that go deep. In Santa Fe, the day of reckoning appears to be nearing. The city is projecting a deficit of $6.5 million for the budget year that starts July 1st. That brings front and center the prospect of layoffs in a city where the word is so rare you probably can't translate it into Spanish. But lots of things we never heard of are happening, and they are going to continue to happen until the excess of the Bubble Era is gradually and completely wrung out.


Ray Powell, frontrunner for the Dem land commissioner nomination, picked up the endorsement of rival and Santa Fe County Commissioner Mike Anaya Tuesday. Anaya failed to win 20 percent of the delegates' support at the party's preprimary convention and decided not to file addtional petition signatures that would get him on the June 1 ballot.

That means the field will be former land commissioner Powell, Sandy Jones from the south and Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya.

Powell blew the doors off at the preprimary. He received 44 percent support from the delegates. None of his rivals received the needed 20% to win an automatic ballot spot.

Anaya getting out of the land race drew a sigh of relief from top Dems. They worried about charges made against him by the husband of a woman who worked for him when he was with the NM Associaton of Countes. The husband charged Anaya engaged in "illicit sexual conduct against my wife." Insiders say the issue has since been settled and there is no court action.

Since they did not get the 20 percent at the preprimary, insider Dems say Jones and Montoya will have to spend heavily to turn the tide against Powell who previously held the office for 10 years.


Another chile starved New Mexican and east coast refugee weighs in on our posting of photos of New Mexicans delicacies to illustrate a story. First, it was Alberto Morales of Cassidy and Associates in DC, saying we were torturing him (We probably compounded that by posting a taco photo next to Alberto's comments). Now comes reaction from Jim Richards, Southern NM native with Cornerstone Government Affairs in the nation's capitol. We found his remarks especially controversial for you Norteños.

As far as the picture that accompanied your post Tuesday, it appears the tacos are either of Taco Bell or Northern NM origin. As a native of Southern NM, where the true Green/Red Chile is grown, umbrage is taken--especially because I share Alberto Morales’ problem of being a New Mexican stranded in DC with little to no real options for Mexican food of our type and flavor. Which, by the way, is the only true type.

For future reference, please don’t torture us stranded folks by writing of the hallowed Green and Red without proper citation and photos.

Well, Jim, we are busted on the taco photo. We grabbed it off of Google and it looked a little cheesy--to use a bad pun--but it was late and we went with it. It looks as much like a New Mexican taco as a Texan skiing at Angel Fire.

There's no argument, Jim, that southern NM grows the very best chile. But you have to travel a hundred miles north to find anyone who really knows how to cook it!

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