Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Pot Of Gold That Could Balance The State Budget; It Really Exists, Plus: Guv Candidates Not Triggering Voter Interest, And: Barela's "Long Shot" 

Guess what? There is plenty of money to balance the state budget without raising your taxes one penny, avoid cutting even one government job or any government service, including the public schools.

What is it?

It is $1 billion in capital outlay projects approved by the Legislature since 2005 that remains unspent. The Legislative Finance Committee reports $325 million of the billion is for projects approved in the last two years, but another $700 million is for projects more than two years old.

So if we aren't going to build these projects, how about transferring that money to the general fund to make up for the hundreds of millions in annual budget shortfalls we are hemorrhaging?

Well, lawmakers and the Governor have been doing that to the tune of several hundred million dollars, but they were also busy authorizing more of these projects--often derided as "political pork" as state coffers bulged with money generated during the times of plenty.

There's no way the Legislature and next governor is going to shift the whole $1 billion to the general fund, but that pot of money will be a fall-back and more of it will be deauthorized to avoid a tax increase or employee layoffs. And if the recession deepens, there will be more pressure to dip deeper into this pot of gold.

The capital outlay money is a one time fix. Once you use it to plug a budget hole it's gone--and it also means the job creating construction projects it was destined for would not see the light of day. But with state deficits projected for as far as the eye can see, the next Governor--like the current one--will welcome any fixes they can get--one time or not.

(We'll have an update on this Thursday as the LFC says only a small portion of that $1 billion could be transferred to cover the state budget gap).


We nearly dropped our burrito at Barelas Coffeehouse early this year when State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez told us he saw the state's $14 billion in permanent funds as potential money to bail out the state if the economy continues to tank.

But the longer this economic slide goes on, the fewer burritos we're dropping.
A "raid" on those funds--as it would be dubbed--is not out of the question.

How do Guv candidates Susana Martinez and Diane Denish feel about using the state's permanent savings account to close the budget gap? They haven't been asked yet.


Some R's we've chatted up think GOP Guv hopeful Martinez may have gone too far for her conservative supporters when she said she would not cut any funds from the public schools. One of them telling us:

Susana could have said that no funds for classrooms will be cut. She could have put a wall around that portion of the budget, but said other expenses--such as administration--are fair game.

Martinez and Denish are both boxing themselves in as they pledge not to touch huge portions of the state budget. They may be setting themselves up for some broken promises when and if they reach the Fourth Floor.


You've probably noticed, the Guv race so far has not generated much chatter among your friends and neighbors. That's because the two candidates aren't yet talking forcefully or emotionally about what really is on the minds of the voters--the economy and their future economic security. Former ABQ Dem Mayor and Land Commissioner Jim Baca, 65, and in the game for 40 years, makes the point this way:

...The candidates have not garnered the public's attention yet and a summer of opportunity has passed them by...The candidates are talking a lot about budget cutting, efficiency, and education but...that just (isn't) getting emotions triggered. Just ask yourself: what do I sit around and worry about? School vouchers? I doubt it. Most people are...worrying about having a job, or their kids having a job, or seeing their savings disappear...

Once again it is the economy and so far the state level campaigns in New Mexico don't seem to see the over arching issue. Maybe it is just too big of an issue to tackle.

We would add that there is no silver bullet for today's economic woes. It is complex. And the one thing these modern campaigns abhor is complexity.


Rep. Heinrich
There's no doubt that ABQ GOP congressional hopeful Jon Barela is a long shot to take the seat held by Dem Martin Heinrich, but sometimes the long shot scores. This video says it all.

While Barela was becoming a hit on YouTube for his shot-making prowess (probably very well-practiced), there was no comment from Martin on the issue du jour--building a Mosque near Ground Zero in NYC which Barela opposes:

Rep. Martin Heinrich, who represents the 1st District, was unavailable for comment Monday...

No surprise that R's at the NRCC in DC hammered Heinrich hard:

Heinrich is avoiding his constituents and running for cover, just as he’s been doing all August. Instead of taking a stand, Heinrich is the only member of the NM delegation ducking and dodging an important issue to the American people, especially the families who lost loved ones on 9/11:

Maybe Martin is busy making his own YouTube video. But it is odd that Heinrich, who is pretty much mistake-free for his first term, is so tentative on this one. Do the polls showing Barela in the vicinity have him fretting?

While the national R's like poking Heinrich, their serious target this cycle is Dem Harry Teague. The Politico is following the national TV money to our state and says it is headed south. Maybe the R's weren't impressed enough with Jon's viral video.


There are over 2,000 Muslims who make ABQ their home.


Adjectives fail in the effort to describe how one feels when trying to comprehend this news that is happening just steps away from New Mexico.

In Juárez, street shootings and other violence continued Monday after a bloody weekend. There had been nine homicides as of Monday evening. Fifty-one people were slain between Friday and Sunday, a police spokesman said. There were 24 homicides on Sunday, making it one of the deadliest days of the year.

In one incident on Sunday afternoon, gunmen fired 100 rounds, killing four people and wounding seven others in an attack...

And to think back eight years when Big Bill became Governor and how there was so much hope for a constructive and prosperous relationship with Mexico. How and when will the madness end?


It is Linda Serrato of California not Linda Serrano who is the new news secretary for Congressman Ben Ray Lujan. We messed that up in a recent blog....

Reader Ched MacQuigg writes of a recent blog:

Joe, You wrote: "What's interesting about New Mexico is that despite signs such as these there are no candidates running anywhere under the umbrella of the Tea Party."

As a matter of policy, in their mission statement in fact, the Tea Party does not endorse candidates. Therefore, a candidate cannot run under the umbrella of the "Tea Party". This according to the Albuquerque Tea Party mission statement; every Tea Party has their own rules, as there is no "umbrella" Tea Party to unite them.

Interesting. Still, we don't hear any statewide candidates saying they would join the Tea Party.

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