Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Richardson Going Hollywood? Guv Considered For CEO Post; Denish Again Waits, Plus: Latest Santa Fe Action, And: Yet Another Election Director 

Richardson & Redford
All of you who bet that Big Bill was going to finish out his second four year term, start hedging those bets. Richardson is reportedly under consideration to become the CEO for the Motion Picture Association of America. This is a major plum. The current CEO, former Congressman Dan Glickman, pulls down a whopping $1.3 million a year in salary and benefits. The job is primarily lobbying Congress and is based in DC.

The news that Richardson's name was under consideration for the job that Glickman will leave next month was first reported by the National Journal's "Under the Influence" magazine.

Others in the mix are Robert Pisano, the former vice chairman of MGM, and currently MPAA's COO and Richard Bates, who was recently named the head of Disney's Washington D.C. office.

The Guv's office told the New Mexican in response to the job speculation:

The governor is not interested in this job and he is not interested in becoming a lobbyist. He plans to live in Santa Fe and drive around the country visiting Major League ballparks after term ends..

Only the other day the Guv hosted Hollywood acting legend Robert Redford at a Santa Fe news conference where Redford announced a new center for training Hispanic and Native American filmmakers. His administration has pushed hard for Hollywood here, passing major tax breaks for the industry that has made movie production here flourish like never before. The tax breaks, costing the state about $80 million a year, have generated controversy, with some state lawmakers questioning the generosity.


We've blogged for the past year of the possibility of Richardson making an exit and paving the way for a Diane Denish governorship. Most of the speculation has centered on Bill going to work in some capacity for the Obama administration. But parachuting into private industry would be a much smoother way out, avoiding the controversy that is inevitable with any political appointment.

A Richardson adios in April would make Lt. Governor Denish the Governor seven months before the November election. That's a potential nightmare for the Republicans. Her name ID would soar, she would have the power of the incumbency and best of all--the chance to separate herself once and for all from the shadow of Richardson.

A Richardson departure would have to be welcome by the White House. It would mean the odds of the Guv's office staying in Democratic hands would soar, helping President Obama in his 2012 reelection effort in this crucial swing state. It makes one wonder if the White House, with connections to the K Street lobbying crowd, isn't putting a word in for Bill.

Richardson would be the first Governor to vacate the office without finishing his term since 1962 when Ed Mechem had himself appointed to fill a US Senate vacancy.


The latest Richardson stunner came amid a cascade of state political news. The Legislature was in day two of its special session to solve the state's budget crisis, city elections were held throughout the state and yet another state Bureau of Elections director was leaving the Secretary of State's office.

From Santa Fe there's news on the latest deal to solve the state's estimated $600 million shortfall for the budget year starting July 1st. The Senate late Tuesday passed, on a 25 to 15 vote, a bill that raises approximately $200 million through a combination of gross receipts and personal income tax changes. The income tax changes are aimed at the criticism heard here and elsewhere that the Senate was sparing the wealthy from any of the budget pain:

The Senate drafted an omnibus tax bill that would raise gross receipts taxes one eighth of a percent, allow local governments to raise gross receipts taxes on food, and close a New Mexico personal income tax deduction for payment of federal income taxes. That deduction is available only to state residents who itemize on their returns. The bill also would increase the amount of tax rebates for lower-income New Mexicans and allow more people to take advantage of that rebate.

A House committee, which on Monday voted against a bill raising the tax on cigarettes by 75 cents a pack, did an about face and voted — along party lines — to recommend passage of the bill. The committee agreed to earmark 25 cents of the increase for education.

The move to close that personal income tax deduction would hit high-income taxpayers most and was made to placate opponents of the tax on food. They argue that tax and other tax increases to balance the budget are being targeted mainly at middle and lower income residents. The deduction change made it possible for the Senate leadership to persuade progressive senators to swallow hard and vote for the bill which went to the House where debate went on into the wee morning hours.


No surprises in Santa Fe or Rio Rancho on Election Day. Incumbent Mayors David Coss and Tom Swisstack in Rio Rancho are both re-elected.

We had a cliffhanger in Espanola. Alice Lucero beat Alfred Herrera by fifteen votes. Lucero 791; Herrera 776. Herrera gave up his District 2 seat to run for mayor. Incumbent Mayor Joseph Maestas did not seek reelection.

Election results from around the state here.


Alligators reported Tuesday night that Kelli (Baca) Fulgenzi will become the new Bureau of Elections director under Secretary of State Herrera after yet another director bit the dust. Fulgenzi was an assistant city clerk in ABQ before joining the SOS as administrator of the Bureau.

Fulgenzi will succeed attorney A.J. Salazar who abruptly quit the $95,000 a year job after holding it for less than a year.

Insiders say Salazar, like previous election directors Daniel Ivey Soto and Gerald Gonzales, clashed with Deputy Secretary of State Don Francisco Trujillo who manages the day to day affairs at the SOS office.

The June primary election is only a couple of months away, but Herrera says she expects it to go smoothly, despite the turnover in the bureau. That's more than can be said for anyone who takes the bureau job. Mary is going to have to have a talk with Trujillo if we are going to get an election director who can stay the course.


The ABQ Journal coming with news on the Domenici Jr. GOP Guv run. It's more baptism by fire:

An Albuquerque lawyer with connections to more than $40,000 in campaign contributions to Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Domenici Jr. pleaded guilty to eight felony counts of tax evasion in 2007.

Robert M. Fiser donated $1,000 under his own name and $17,100 from companies he owns. He also solicited $14,000 from family members and another $11,800 from companies he represents.


We wrote this while awaiting passage of the Senate bill Tuesday night that partially reinstates the food tax, but also clips well-off taxpayers a bit. Let's see what the House does where all 70 members are up for election this year. Senators do not face voters until 2012.

Is Santa Fe taking note of those 100 lost jobs at Garduno's, the ABQ based restaurant chain that is now in bankruptcy? They should because they are emblematic of the economic problem our state faces. It is the lower and middle classes getting hammered much more by this brutal recession than the professional and upper classes.

Restaurants, retail and construction have been leading the way down along with manufacturing jobs. Doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals we speak with tell us about business being off, but not in all cases, and they are keeping their doors open.

That's why there is so much concern over Santa Fe's head-in-the-sand approach to taxation. Relying solely on increases in the gross receipts tax and on cigarettes and food hits the groups that are already being hit the hardest--those "working families" the Democrats are so fond of citing in their propaganda. The professional classes are much less impacted by a price rise of a couple of dollars. And the vast majority of them would hardly notice an increase in their income tax bills of a couple of hundred dollars.

Santa Fe talks about spreading the pain. But the pain for thousands of working New Mexicans--now out of work--is here and now and deep. Record numbers of New Mexicans are enrolled for food stamps, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance. Let's repeat that for Senators Smith, Jennings and Sanchez--Record Numbers.

The American bargain is based on fairness and building a middle class. By piling most of the tax increases on those who can least afford them, Santa Fe would perpetuate the already wide gap between the wealthy and the shrinking middle class that they should be working to close.

There once was a New Mexico Democratic Party that used to say such things. Where did it go?


The Guv is getting credit for signing a measure banning double-dipping. That's when retired government workers go back on the state payroll and draw two checks. The new law says:

Retirees who return to work cannot collect their PERA pension; retirees must wait out 12 months before returning to public employment, including as an independent contractor and current return to work employees shall pay the PERA employee contribution

When we first glanced at the measure, we didn't notice that it called for having current double dippers pay their contributions to PERA, instead of the state. That will save a lot of money, even though current dippers are being allowed to stay on.


There is no discernible job growth in the ABQ metro area, but like his counterparts in Santa Fe, ABQ Mayor RJ Berry seems to be hanging on and hoping for a rebound. We are now dealing with a generations-high jobless rate of 8.7% in the ABQ metro. That doesn't include those who have given up looking for work or those who have accepted part-time jobs. Including those measurements might put us in the low teens.

Berry is delaying the tough decisions on city personnel until he sees the white of the eye of this nasty slump. His budget aides are sending mixed messages, with the shortfall projections for the budget year that starts July 1 ranging anywhere from $17 million to over $55 million.

But with the layoff of 100 at Garduno's and more jobs to vanish when the South Valley GE plant closes later this year, Berry is being urged by City Councilor Ken Sanchez to begin planning employee layoffs, furloughs or both. Maybe Berry already is, but doesn't want to panic anyone.

If this fiscal storm continues to rage, Berry's best option is furloughs and salary cuts. Throwing more people out of work is not going to help anyone, and a job with less pay is better than no job at all. Other cities have gone this route before resorting to firings. They've also asked for early retirements.

The city council will begin debating the budget in earnest in April.


You're invited to hang out with us today at 4 p.m. on 770 KKOB-AM radio where we'll join host Jim Villanucci to discuss the 2010 race for Governor and other key contests. Its there a front runner for the GOP Guv nod or is it anyone's game? Perhaps some of the callers to the 50,000 watt conservative talker can give us some clues.

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