Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Kick Of The Can Over State Budget Debacle As Election Nears? Plus: Forces Eat Away At State Fiscal Foundation, Also: PNM Pounded Over Layoff Warning And Pence Crowd Boos Susana 

Will the state budget debacle really be resolved at a special legislative session that would last less than a honest day's work as Gov. Martinez says she would like? In a year when all 112 legislators are up for election it appears doubtful. A veteran state political consultant  says:

They should be able to plug the $200 million hole left over from the budget year that ended June 30. They have to do that to avoid putting the state into deficit spending which is illegal. But neither the Governor, the Republicans or a good many Democrat may have the stomach for a special session that addresses the shortfall for the current budget year that began July 1 and is as much as $500 million. Because of the election risk there is a high probability that they will kick that can into the regular legislation session in January.

But if they kick the can to January that would lead much less time to balance the budget before the budget year ends next June 30.

Senate Majority Leader Sanchez broached the topic of possible tax increases to solve the mammoth shortfall but was immediately attacked on social media in a state that has been conditioned by the GOP to opposes any and all tax increases for any reason.

Speculation that the legislature could invoke its rarely used power to call itself into session to resolve the budget disaster if Gov. Martinez does not, is fanciful. First, she is going to call the special. Second, it would take three fifths of the House and Senate voting to call themselves back. That would mean 40 of the 70 House members would have to vote to call themselves in. You could count on one finger how many of the 37 majority House Republicans would do that.


The state's fiscal foundation is akin to a house infested with termites. The very underpinnings of the structure are being eaten away:

--The crash in oil prices is longer and deeper than anyone expected.  The decline began in earnest in June of 2014. Over two years later we're still in the cellar.

--Tax cuts meant to stimulate the economy and attract business that would diversify us away from energy have failed. Our unemployment rate remains among the highest in the nation.

--A lack of jobs as well as an ill-prepared workforce has skyrocketed the number of resident receiving Medicaid and food stamps. The rate of participation in the civilian work force has plummeted below 54 percent, among the worst in the nation. We are fast becoming a welfare state, if not one already.

--A new and more menacing crime wave has embraced the state's population center as drug use soars amid the social conditions crisis and an understaffed and mismanaged police force tries to cope.

This modern New Mexico nightmare is shooed away by the Governor with a see no pain, feel no pain mentality. But that's not very convincing. The state has been undergoing an  alarming and historic depopulation trend. In short, New Mexico no longer "grows as it goes."


PNM finds itself getting pounded after declaring that if it does not get the 14 percent increase in electric rates it is asking the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) to approve, it would look at laying off up to 300 workers at the electric utility.

ABQ Republican, attorney and political consultant Doug Antoon is one of those taking the monopoly utility to task:

Don't stand for this boldface extortion. Deny them any hike and send them packing. There are other entities who are dying to fill the vacuum. Just ask Blue Cross Blue Shield. Didn't take them long at all (to come back), after we called their bluff.

PRC hearing officer Carolyn Glick says a rate hike of 6.4 percent is justified but not the double digit boost PNM wants.

As for the threat of layoffs, it's never pleasant to see anyone lose their job in the state's stagnant economy, but institutions across the board have taken major employment hits during this ongoing Great Recession. Now PNM is coming up against this new economic reality. It must make itself leaner for the decades ahead and can't exempt itself from the pain so many New Mexicans have felt and are feeling.

Hearing officer Glick is giving the utility a badly needed wake-up call. The comfortable corporate boardroom needs to take heed.


Pence and Pearce (Journal)
The GOP VP candidate Mike Pence sung the praises of Donald Trump Tuesday before a smallish ABQ crowd of 500 to 600 but the event served as a stern reminder of the deep division the Trump-Pence candidacy has caused in the state:

Gov. Pence faced a chorus of boos from the crowd after he defended Gov. Martinez, who has declined to endorse Trump in his presidential bid. “Let me say Susana Martinez is a dear, dear friend of mine,” Pence said in a response to a question about why Martinez and other Republicans have not endorsed Trump. “She’s a great governor, she’s done a great job for New Mexico,” Pence said, drawing boos from the crowd. Pence had spoken with Martinez just a few hours earlier at the Republican Governors Association summer meeting in Aspen, Colorado.

The R's at Sandia did not look exactly like sheep awaiting their slaughter, but something like that. Trump will very likely lose New Mexico which is now a solidly Blue state for the presidency and other statewide federal offices, but gets purplish during the low turnout, off-year elections when R's are able to score gains.

Given that, it would seem the money Pence raised at an ABQ fund-raiser was more important than the audience events. (After ABQ he appeared in conservative Roswell).

Among the Trump backers on hand for the Sandia event were southern GOP Congressman Steve Pearce, GOP Secretary of State candidate Nora Espinoza and Valencia County Rep. Alonzo Baldonado. Like Susana, Lt Governor Sanchez did not attend and is not endorsing Trump.

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