Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

12-15 Will Gov. Make Changes in 2nd Term?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Gov. Bill Richardson has signaled that there will be some changes at the top of state government to kick off his second term.
He may wait until closer to his Jan. 1 inauguration to make any of his moves public, but the announcement that Labor Secretary Conroy Chino is departing for a better-paying job with an unnamed company in private industry may be a harbinger of things to come.
Gov. Richardson had nothing but good to say about Chino following the announcement, but the labor secretary has experienced a number of problems during his stormy tenure.
Richardson's normal style has been to shuffle or jettison cabinet members as soon as they get in trouble but Chino got to stay until the end of Richardson's first term. And maybe he could have stayed through a second term, had he desired.
Chino is from Acoma Pueblo, one of two American Indians on the governor's 21-member cabinet. That comes to just under 10 percent of the cabinet. You can't get any closer than that to the proportion of Indians in our population.
Other proportions on Richardson's cabinet also work well. He has just under 40 percent Hispanics and just under 50 percent women on the cabinet. It might not be far off to expect those proportions to remain about the same in the governor's second term.
Richardson says he plans to ask most of his cabinet secretaries to stay in their current position. That may mean some more job shuffling and a nudge or two out the door. Blogger Joe Monahan reports one female cabinet secretary telling people that she is "gone."
Early in Richardson's first term, Tourism Secretary Fred Peralta and Expo New Mexico Director Michael Cerletti switched spots. Peralta had been having problems. Cerletti had been Tourism secretary under former Gov. Bruce King and wanted the job again.
A bit later Regulation and Licensing Department Secretary Art Jaramillo and General Services Department Secretary Edward Lopez were swapped. Lopez had been getting a great deal of grief about some controversial moves by the governor, such as a new jet plane and a consolidation of state purchasing.
Nothing bad ever was said about any of the four cabinet members involved, so the capitol wall leaners, as radio personality Ernie Mills called them, were left to surmise why the moves were made.
Also during Richardson's first term, Health Department Secretary Patricia Montoya and Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Mary Dale Bolson both stepped down from their jobs and were not heard from again.
That is quite a few mid-term changes, which may mean there aren't many more to make. Or it could signal there will be several changes.
We can expect that there will be changes coming from the recommendations by a 50-member Transition Committee appointed by the governor, which will evaluate his first term and suggest changes he might want to make during his second term.
Most of those recommendations are expected to be program changes but Richardson could decide he wants someone new to head a department in a new direction. Those recommendations were due to Richardson by Dec. 1.
The governor said he wanted the committee to focus on five key areas: health, education, public safety, economic development and the environment. Those key areas correspond to five of the 21 cabinet departments. That has people asking whether those five department secretaries are being targeted.
The general consensus of those I talk with is that these five cabinet secretaries are some of the most secure in state government. The governor, evidently, just wants to emphasize those areas during his second term.
Richardson recently has received some good news about the new money he will have available to spend on program changes. According to figures released last week, the state will have $720 more to spend on recurring expenses and over $1 billion to spend on one-time expenditures.
FRI, 12-15-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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