Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wanted: Budget Hawks For ABQ Taxpayers Plus: City Of Santa Fe Looking Sorry, And: No Texas Envy Here As Lonestar State Raids Their Rainy Day Funds 

Where are the budget hawks at ABQ City Hall? Mayor Berry says that much of the shortfall predicted for the budget year that begins July 1 is due to higher costs from the city's vendors, such as utilities and insurance, but is anyone questioning those vendors and asking them to hold the line as the city waits for the economic recovery to make its way here?

Berry prides himself on his business acumen so can he apply it to dealing with city vendors? With an unemployment rate at an historic 9 percent, tax collections flat and city employees already hit with across the board pay cuts, can't the vendors share in the pain? Or should the city blindly approve the increases the vendors present to them. Berry probably didn't do that when he was running his construction company.

The city does millions in business with many of these vendors--utilities, insurance companies, law firms, etc. They don't want to lose that business. There are some things like the price of gas that the city can't do much about, but neither is the city helpless in the face of rising costs. Utility bills and insurance costs can be negotiated.

The mayor says everyone should share in the economic pain so will we hear some success stories in persuading vendors to give Mr. & Mrs. ABQ a break? This is still a recession. The city can and should be negotiating from a position of strength.


The same budget hawk mentality can also be applied to the ABQ Public Schools where they say $16 million of their expected $26 million shortfall is due to "higher costs." How about some examples of how price increases were successfully fought? Taxpayers could use some good news.


They are just trying to hold on in the city of Santa Fe, but they've lost their grip and it seems nearly certain that property owners will be paying more to keep the city in the black.

The life-changing and business-breaking recession in the City Different is so savage that the projected shortfall is still at $8 million for the budget year that starts July 1. The total budget is only about $72 million so this is a nearly 11 percent deficit. The property tax increase will bring in $4 million with another $4 million coming from budget cuts.

If that's not enough to keep Mayor David Coss hopping, he still hasn't been able to get a handle on the capitol city crime problem. Burglaries hit an all-time high in 2010. The burglars are knocking over Santa Fe homes like they were sand castles.

The tourism bust, the downsizing of state government, the real estate crash and drug addiction and gangs have all conspired to send Santa Fe reeling. And the old buzz may be gone for good. The new census numbers show Santa Fe growth lagging when compared to the state's other cities.


We hear the happy talk, but until we see new jobs coming into the metro area we believe the greatest real estate bear market in ABQ's modern history will continue. The latest:

Grubb & Ellis has hired an adviser to explore a possible sale or merger. Its New Mexico affiliate, Grubb & Ellis New Mexico, is the state's largest commercial real estate firm.

If you are in the market for a house in ABQ and not holding a hammer over the head of the seller, get over to Home Depot and get one fast.


Estevan Rael-Galvez. the executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, caused a stir when he asserted that New Mexicans who maintain their heritage is primarily Spanish are living a fantasy. That set off a raging debate that had Rael-Galvez working overtime to clarify. Well, he will no longer be a lightning rod at the center. He announces he has a new job as vice-president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Along related lines, a reader writes of our Monday blog regarding the state senate's defeat of a bill that would have repealed driver's licenses for illegal immigrants:

Your analysis of "The Defining Moment" was quite cogent. Sen. Jennings' standing up to the Gov might not have approached one of Sen. John Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage", but it was very much appreciated nonetheless. I went to high school in Roswell and my father worked for Colin McMillan, so I'm quite familiar with the political ambiance in Chaves County that Jennings has to deal with. My favorite history professor at UNM, the late Ferenc (Frank) Szasz, said that extremes in politics in NM, as compared to many other states for instance, are often moderated by our multi-cultural necessity to be able to live together. I think Governor Martinez is getting a metaphorical spanking from the more sensible heads in the Legislature for not following that custom.

Relatedly, I think you misused the word "racial" in describing folks who are of Hispanic origin. For Blacks, American Indians, and Asians it's OK, but we've had teachers and government agencies drum it in--correctly--that Hispanos (or Latinos) are of any race. Thus, the implied "Hispanic race" has no basis in fact and is an obvious misnomer. Although the terms "ethnic" or "ethnicity" don't have the media punch of "race" or "racial", it much better encompasses the great variety of people of Hispanic descent....


Does the Governor really want to veto this?

The Governor has publicly stated she will veto HB59 (dealing with the unemployment insurance fund). This veto will mean that $120 million in additional benefits will not be rolled back as of July 1, 2011 and the unemployment insurance fund will risk being insolvent by November of this year. Insolvency means that all employers, regardless of experience rating, will (be subjected to a mandatory) 350% tax increase....


That tax break for locomotive fuel used by Union Pacific Railroad in NM will not be vetoed by Susana. She mentioned it early in the session and it won approval from the Legislature. The tax relief will cost about $1.8 million a year. The offset is the jobs that will be located at Santa Teresa when Union Pacific opens a refueling hub there.


More today on the NM census numbers and the increase in the Hispanic population as reported by Bloomberg.


No wonder Governor Martinez is no longer shouting praises about how Texans run their state's economy. The Governor there just agreed to draw down the Texas rainy day funds. Susana has said she does not support taking more out of New Mexico's Permanent Funds to ease the budget pain.

It's true that they do everything big in Texas. Their projected budget shortfall for the next two years is a staggering $20 billion or more. That's a hard rain fallin'.


Attorney General Gary King comes with this op-ed piece on how his office fared at the just concluded sixty day legislative session.

We welcome your op-ed pieces on politics and policy. Just drop them in the email.


Our reader who Tuesday floated the name of Georgia Otero, chairwoman of the Valencia County Commission, as a possible 2012 Republican foe for State Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez gets some push back. Valencia Republican reader Sue Duvall comes with this:

Joe, we read what you said about Georgia Otero in your blog. She isn't going to run. Her husband died last month and she's been really burned out. Also, not all the Republicans around her have been happy with her service because she has sided with the Democrats a lot. Basically, the Republicans don't consider her very Republican....

The candidate who folks are trying to get to run is Jamie Estrada who is living in Los Lunas now. He ran for PRC last year but lost the primary. Only problem is his roots are in Las Cruces and it will seem like the Governor Martinez crew planted him here. He is tough and can be ruthless and that's why people think he wouldn't be afraid to take on Sanchez. He would get Tea Party support from the transplants that have made Valencia a GOP county....

Interesting stuff. If Estrada runs will he use the slogan: "Elect Estrada--He's Tough and Ruthless." Or is that one already taken?

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