Inside the Capitol

Monday, June 14, 2010

6-16 Campaigns Will Stick to Small Stuff

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The 2010 New Mexico gubernatorial campaign will be waged primarily over little hot-button issues rather than the big issues our state faces.
Don't blame the governor candidates. And definitely don't blame the fact they both are women. They have positions on the major issues.
But it's just human nature to obsess over the small stuff rather than worrying about how to create more jobs or how to get all parents more involved in their children's education.
Of course, the costliest item is the state budget, the only product the Legislature is required to produce. The big factors there are public schools and universities, state employees and Medicaid. Lawmakers have tried to stay away from those subjects and the governor candidates probably will too.
Retirees who return to work while drawing a state pension are a favorite target of candidates but they don't have a major impact on the budget The next governor likely will be cautious about hiring double dippers but it will still consume a disproportionate amount campaign discussion.
The number of state employees will receive much discussion also. A recent study showed New Mexico ranking third per capita. Five out of the top six were states with small populations spread over a wide area. The only surprises were that Alaska was second and not first and that New York was fifth instead of way down the line.
Much has been said about the thousands of state jobs that have not been filled since the November 2008 hiring freeze. But a recent newspaper article told of an increase in state employees. That is something that does need discussed.
I'm going to predict that with all the focus on hiring and layoffs, candidates are going to start looking at nepotism as a serious problem.
Gov.. Bill Richardson's jet will get campaign hits, especially because Lt. Gov. Denish rides on it sometimes. Unsuccessful GOP governor candidate Allen Weh suggested he'd take his pickup when he traveled the state.
That wouldn't happen. Former Gov. Garrey Carruthers loved to tool around in his little Thunderbird convertible but his police security wouldn't hear of it. But sometimes he would sneak out. Then it looked like a Keystone Kops episode as the governor tried to evade them.
Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones gave me her analysis two years ago. She said the jet Gov. Richardson bought was designed for out of state trips. Flying instate, it never reached peak efficiency.
The governor needs a plane. Otherwise she will spend way too much time on the road. How about a smaller, less costly one?
We talked about the little issue of firing and hiring political appointees recently. Every governor has fired all the old ones and then hires his own.
The only way to save money is to hire fewer political appointees than the previous governor. Since Richardson was the all-time champ, that won't be hard. But the only savings is the difference in number of political hires.
I mentioned in my previous column on political hires that until the State Personnel Act was passed in the mid-1960s, all employees were political hires There was nearly a 100 percent turnover between administrations.
During the 1950s and early '60s, there were six changes from Republican to Democrat governors. Terms were only two years in length back then and Republican Ed Mechem ran every time he could.
Reader Mick McMahon tells me that in some communities, most notably Las Vegas, there were two sets of state employees. Depending on the gubernatorial election results one set would get state jobs and the other set would go on welfare.
Las Vegas had many jobs with a state hospital, a regional highway department and a large welfare office.
Public schools were over 20 years ahead of the state. School superintendents got a tenure law passed in 1941 that prevented school new board members, elected every two years, from dictating which teachers got hired and fired.
WED, 7-16-10

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



Post a Comment

<< Home