Thursday, August 25, 2016

Come On, Larry. House GOP Money Chairman Insists Budget Not In "Crisis" As Outlook Worsens; Plus: More Angles On Budget Debacle 

Rep. Larranaga
It's almost embarrassing to see the chairman of the once powerful and respected House Appropriations Committee groveling at the feet of the Governor and insisting in the face of all known facts that the state of New Mexico is not in a budget crisis.

Even as lawmakers were told Wednesday that collapsing tax revenues have blown a $650 million hole in the state budget and that reserves are now zero, we get this:

“It’s not a crisis,” Rep. Larry Larranaga, R-Albuquerque, said after seeing the forecast. “We’ll just have to make a mid-year adjustment like we do every year.”

"Like we do every year?"

Like every year we have a budget hole of this magnitude?

Every year we have a general fund budget so decimated that it is now the same as it was back in 2010?

Every year we face possible devastating cuts to the public schools?

Every year we face a crisis that has three consecutive budget years--'16, '17 '18--bleeding buckets of red?

Every year we face a bear market in the energy fields that shows no signs of abating?

Come on, man. Bring on the Gators:

Joe, Larranaga said business as usual about the budget crisis, and he is right. Being Martinez’s lapdog is business as usual for him. He went into the 2016 session telling people that there was an additional $228 million availible to spend. This allowed Martinez to talk about new "investments" during the State of the State. He eventually stepped back from that number and pushed a $6.32 billion budget through the House. This was done so Martinez could avoid embarrassing cuts to Medicaid that would lead to a loss of hundreds of millions in federal dollars. He was finally forced to cut some more by the Senate, but not too much more to limit the political hit that Martinez, chair of the Republican Governors Association, would take. We still lost the federal dollars.

The Senate passed a $6.248 budget and it came with a dire warning from Sen. Smith that we would need a special session if things did not turn around. Now the revised revenue estimates for FY17 is 9.7% lower than the August 2015 projection, but this is not a problem according to lapdog Larranaga. Business as usual

Faced with a crisis of this magnitude past chairmen of House Appropriations (Mershon, Varela etc.) would look for a bipartisan solution--and pronto. But today, with the Martinez political machine breathing down his neck, Chairman Larranaga can't answer the call from history. That's just plain sad but to be expected when the political consultants are running the show which includes the once high and mighty House Appropriations Committee.

And where are the young up and comers of the GOP on this historic budget debacle? Like Majority Leader Nate Gentry and House Ways and Means Chair Jason Harper. How about some new ideas from a new generation of Republicans, not the same tired bromides of tax cuts that don't work. The state is ready to listen, if only someone has the huevos to talk.

Nate is quiet. Here's Harper still in ideological hiding and not willing or able to make the break that could make him matter:

I have no interest in letting any revenue-raising proposals get through my committee.

In other words, Rep. Harper has no interest in leading. He lacks the stomach to conduct delicate surgery and instead relies on the meat axe approach of Susana and Jay. Says Silver City Dem State Senator Howie Morales:

We’re not cutting any more; we’re amputating. 

There is one R who is talking--and listening. That's GOP State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn who is showing flexibility on resolving the budget crisis, including looking at revenue enhancement. Are Larranaga, Harper, Susana and Jay sniffing the past while Dunn is getting a whiff of the future?


For the budget nerds here are the gory details from the Legislative Finance Committee on the state's sorry finances.


This is not good for the future outlook of our economy:

. . .  Pueblo of Laguna, announced that its Kicks Entertainment unit has signed an agreement to acquire the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Lake Charles in Westlake, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, for $134 million.  "It's been proven to be difficult to grow in New Mexico," said Skip Sayre, chief of  marketing for Laguna Development Corp. "We realized we needed to venture outside the state of New Mexico. We thought it was a good fit for the company." Given New Mexico's sluggish economy, the company, its board of directors and its shareholders, the 8,000 residents of the Laguna pueblo, wanted to seek opportunities to grow outside of the state.

$134 million to invest and nowhere to put it in their home state? What's wrong with that picture?


A reader writes of the Wednesday blog:

In Wednesday's blog you write, "Republicans control two branches of the government."
Actually, the R's control 1 1/2 branches: they control the Executive Branch and one-half of the Legislative Branch. The Dems control the other half of the Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch. Just a technical observation.

That is correct. It is one and half branches the R's control. But political realists might disagree. The R's have the governorship, the state House and often rule the Senate because conservative Dems caucus with the R's to form a conservative coalition that controls much of the agenda.


ABQ reader Richard Flores writes of the NM Truth campaign:

I like the way the NM Truth campaign in its newspaper advertisement subliminally shows the income gap between the haves and the have nots in New Mexico by displaying scenes from the Balloon Fiesta and ski slopes in juxtaposition with the state rankings pertaining to childhood poverty and hunger. 

Childhood hunger is part and parcel of being poor or homeless, where parents are unemployed, drug addicted or incarcerated, or where children are being raised by grandparents on fixed incomes. Children who are poor and hungry seldom do well in school; this has been proven over and over again. When children can't optimize their potential because of poverty and hunger, they are left behind in a system that rewards the privileged. And where the mainstream gravitates to blaming the parents, do we not have some responsibility for providing the resources to bolster these children? Early childhood education is a straightforward approach for impacting the lives of poor children. I don't get the resistance from the public, politicians, and special interests.

Chi St. Joseph's, sponsor of NM Truth, is urging the legislature to approve a constitutional amendment that would let voters decide if they want to tap a portion of the state's nearly $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund and devote it to very early childhood education.

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