Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Looking For Last Minute Legislative Tricks, Susana And The $4.5 Billion Stash, Positive Thinking In Dona Ana And More On Big Bill's Paper Trail 

What last minute tricks does state Senator John Arthur Smith have up his sleeve? The powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee was instrumental in engineering a big corporate tax cut in the final minutes of the 2013 session. Now the wall-leaners are looking for a possible gas tax increase movida from the Deming solon. One of them in the direct line of fire reports:

Senator Smith may try to pull another last minute hat trick. Watch for him to put a nickel increase in the state gasoline tax for road construction and repair onto a bill that Republicans would be hard-pressed to vote against. This session Smith is all about roads and paying for them with a higher gas tax and against Gov. Martinez's plan to finance the construction with a bond issue but no tax hike.

Smith has a lot of chips to play but getting any kind of tax boost through the GOP-controlled House would indeed be a hat trick. Sidebar: He's known as "Dr. No" so Smith's support of any tax hike is notable.

Readers continue to come with their take on the announcement from the state auditor that $4.5 billion is stashed in various state accounts and going unspent. This one wonders about Gov. Martinez's position on the matter:

You would think that the governor would be all over this. Isn't she for balancing budgets? Then why can't she balance that account? Even the Feds have rules for getting these unused funds off the books. Why does the auditor have to raise this point and why isn't her head of the Department of Finance all over it? She likes to talk the talk but not walk the walk. If she wants budget reform, capital outlay reform, etc., she ought to get in there and figure these things out, not leave it up to the state auditor (who has been in office 2 months) to alert her to her accounts being out of balance after she's had 4 years to figure that out.

There has been no comment from the Fourth Floor on the auditor's report but with that kind of money out there the story isn't going to away.

And then there's this from the January edition of the Legislative Finance Committee newsletter. It points out there is plenty of room for the Martinez administration to beef up the state's workforce but it isn't happening,

The Legislature has cut the number of authorized positions in state agencies over the last five years but the actual number of employees continues to lag behind, with the vacancy rate at most big agencies greater than 10 percent. Both the number of authorized positions and the number of actual state employees have dropped from FY10, even though the state‚Äôs economy has shown slow but steady growth and agency
budgets have grown.

Remember how we were told for years a smaller state workforce would lead to increased activity in the private sector? Not.

GUV '18

Here's one you'll enjoy. A possible Dem candidate for governor in '18 (you know him) had this to say about our Tuesday blog reporting on the latest speculation on that race:

I would prefer my name not be part of your early musings. Right now your early speculation is drawing only yawns, and in two years that field will look stale.

Hear that Hector, Tim, Michelle and Alan? They're waiting for you to look like day old bread and then they all jump.

Well, what's drawing even bigger yawns is Election '16. There will be no statewide offices on the ballot next year. All members of the state House and Senate are up for election but the R's are expected to hang on in the House and the Dems to keep control of the Senate, albeit, that is not written in cement. The presidential race could be exciting, but not here. We've become a blue state and even a lower turnout is highly unlikely to change that.


Only in the crazy, upside down world of a government bureaucrat would you get this conclusion. From Dona Ana County Manager Julia Brown:

"Notwithstanding revenue shortfalls, vacant positions in some departments, and our recent discussions regarding the need to upgrade employee compensation, and possibly implement a gross receipts tax, the state of Dona Ana County is positive." Brown also mentioned Dona Ana County Treasurer David Gutierrez. A county employee said Gutierrez offered her $1,000 in exchange for sex, an allegation Gutierrez did not dispute.

So you don't have enough money and will probably have to raise taxes, haven't filled jobs that need filling  and the county treasurer who offered an employee $1,000 to screw him won't resign. But, hey, everything is fine in Dona Ana County government. Well, Julia has taken the power of positive thinking to an all new level. . .

We've heard very few positive comments about the decision of former NM Governor Richardson to donate his papers to the University of Texas at Austin instead of keeping them in the state. Readers here scorched the decision but this emailer defends Bill:

The fact is Richardson was and remains an important global figure: his congressional papers, those from his time as UN Ambassador, as US Secretary of Energy, Governor of NM, and continuing global diplomat deserve the best curation and access available, if for no other reason than historical research and posterity.  With all respect to our very fine local institutions of record, I think most people would agree that UT simply has more resources and experience to accomplish these goals.

By state law all of Richardson's official public papers from his time as New Mexico governor will be housed in the state archives in Santa Fe.

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