Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

12-1 Saving the Golden Eggs

WED, 12-01-10

SANTA FE - Don't mess too much with our golden eggs when trying to balance our state budget. Those eggs could be breakable.
New Mexico's biggest golden egg is the oil and gas industry. It produces the most money for our state budget. Oil has a very bad reputation these days because it is dirty. But a surprising number of items we also use daily contain oil. We aren't going to get rid of it no matter how hard we try.
So we might as well learn to live with oil no matter how much some people hate it. In addition we'd better learn to get along as best as we can by both being good neighbors and boosting our state's leading product.
New Mexico's second biggest golden egg is tourism. It creates more jobs than any other private employer and is second to oil and gas in the amount of money it produces for state coffers. Sometimes we don't like tourists very much either. They get in our way and drive dangerously because they're lost.
Legislators take tourism for granted, often cutting the Tourism Department's budget. For the past eight years, it has been a favorite place for Gov. Bill Richardson to send political appointees whose salaries eat up money meant to help communities attract more tourists.
The Tourism Department works with local communities, helping tourist enterprises grow. Not much time is spent working to attract the Ritz Carleton super hotels to the state.
But that's not the philosophy of the state's Economic Development Department. We lost Microsoft 40 years ago for want of a $35,000 loan and we don't want that to ever happen again. Actually the loan wouldn't have kept Bill Gates and Paul Allen here. In no way could we have produced the number of high tech graduates they needed for their rapid expansion.
But we're still looking for other big fish, promising them the world but mainly attracting big talkers who take our money and disappear - or never even materialize.
The Economic Development Department should take a lesson from the Tourism Department. Help businesses grow that already are here. They have proven their loyalty to our state. They came here because they wanted to and didn't need any incentives.
But we take them for granted. They are already in business so they don't need any help. Helping 500 businesses expand by one employee is not nearly as sexy as attracting one business promising 500 jobs.
Some communities already are trying this and are having success. In Santa Fe, a group called Santa Fe Economic Development, Inc. started a process called economic gardening, looking for business clusters within the community that could be helped by working together to identify problems and needs that could be solved by group action.
Clusters were developed for book publishers, artists, technology, private schools and others. The group hoped to gain the support of Santa Fe city and county governments but those public bodies never could get their minds off the glamour. Consequently New Mexico has one more movie sound stage in the process of being constructed with significant public assistance and SFEDI is now defunct.
The Economic Development Department must change its focus but helping its small businesses seems to be a difficult concept to master. It would be intelligent for the Martinez administration to go after former board and staff members from Santa Fe Economic Development, Inc. for top positions in the EDD.
The result will be fewer trade missions to exotic places and less entertaining of big wigs. It's not as much fun but it can be much more productive.
Outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson has been a major reason for the let's-snag-the-big-boys movement. Before he even took office, he was attending international trade meetings wooing the biggest of the big execs.
There isn't much evidence any of that ever did us much good.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fw: 11-29 Some Helpful Suggestions


SANTA FE - Between administrations is a great time to consider changes throughout government. An entirely new set of decision makers is taking over at the state level. And we have new leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives.
We all know that many changes in our government are necessary. With a new crop of leaders, we should see a new willingness to change the way government works. We should expect new leaders with a willingness to accept new ideas.
Here are some of my ideas. I'd be glad to hear yours but even more importantly get them to your elected representatives. That means our new governor too.
First, let's talk about what seems to be on the news full time these days. It's the battle between security and privacy. Or in more familiar language, porno scans and gropings by airport security.
I'm not sure how much good they do. Every time we have a new terrorist scare, we have a new set of security checks at airports. The problem is that the new measures stop the old threats so new threats are invented.
But each set of new measures seems to make the majority of Americans feel safer. So why fight it? I consider them a mild annoyance but quickly forgettable. If you want to fret about something, worry about getting to the airport safely in your car or about equipment failure on your plane. They are infinitely more likely than a terrorist getting on your plane.
Airport security staff seem like a friendly bunch, hoping to make our bad experience as quick as possible. Who I worry about is the security staff I can't see -- the people in the back room rifling through my unlocked luggage.
I have lost a computer. My wife has lost high-powered painkillers. An outside pocket was ripped off a brand new suitcase. A bag of snacks my wife needs for taking with her medicine, ended up in my suitcase.
Why do we get hit so often? Because of my bad eyesight, we try to make our bags stand out so I can see them on the baggage carousel. Maybe they stand out for random checks too.
Or here's another theory. We get to the airport about three hours early, so our luggage sits around longer. We do it in case security takes forever or a traffic tie-up between Santa Fe and Albuquerque stops traffic for hours.
Before retirement, Jeanette and I had jobs with a fair amount of stress. So we vowed to keep ourselves out of stressful situations in retirement as much as possible. It takes more time but it usually enables a leisurely meal.
My recommendation to the Transportation Security Administration is to watch the baggage screeners more carefully.
My recommendation to the New Mexico State Police is to figure out how to keep traffic moving on Interstates. The cops you use to pick off motorists crossing the median to get on a frontage road around a collision would be better used to help detour traffic.
Are there really that many wrecks caused by people crossing the median at a seemingly safe place? I've never seen the statistics on it. Police cars do it all the time. From watching your commercials, it would seem it is first-time DWIs that are the most dangerous thing on the road.
From looking at the makeup of the transition committees on energy and environment, we appear headed for relaxed regulation on many industries. Some of that probably is good, especially if it truly does allow our economy to grow.
We went a long way in the other direction the past eight years to make Gov. Bill Richardson the most environmentally friendly presidential candidate and because of the strong environmental organizations we have in New Mexico.
But we also are watching for political payoffs to the businesses that helped Gov.-Elect Martinez close her huge campaign funding deficits in the blink of an eye.
New Mexicans have become sensitized toward that sort of thing.

Fw: 11-26 Martinez's Appointments Yield Surprises


SANTA FE - Gov.-Elect Susana Martinez is still over a month away from assuming office but she is likely busier than most of her predecessors. Not only does she have a crushing budget deficit to tame, she also is a star in the national Republican Party and getting much attention there.
She was selected to the Republican Governors Association leadership team and is being mentioned as a possible 2012 vice-presidential candidate or as a U.S. attorney general nominee if the GOP wins the next presidential sweepstakes.
But transition work comes first. Much is happening on the 3rd floor of the state Capitol Building, where legislative offices are turned over to transition teams every time a new governor is elected. Some of the work is being done down in Las Cruces and there has even been a report of activity in a hotel near the El Paso airport.
For the first time ever, there will be an inaugural ball in Las Cruces in addition to the usual balls in Santa Fe. It is nice to see another part of the state get in on some of the action.
Martinez quickly announced former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson as her transition chairwoman and then several of her transition teams. Few other public announcements have been made since then but a pattern appears to have emerged.
Transition teams for energy and environment have been heavily weighted toward the oil business and land developers, indicating a relaxed regulatory climate is on the way. That will be a relief to many who have contended that rules promulgated during the administration of Gov. Bill Richardson have chased businesses out of state.
Another pattern may lie in the number of women Martinez and Wilson have appointed to transition teams and other top jobs. The presence of women in the governors' office and in cabinet level jobs is not unusual in New Mexico. Women often have served as chiefs of staff to governors.
Gov. David Cargo (1967-70) enticed Maralyn Budke away from the Legislative Finance Committee to be his chief of staff. Twenty years later, Republican Gov. Garrey Carruthers convinced Budke to come out of retirement to be his chief of staff. She insisted on receiving only $1 per year to head his administration.
Linda Kehoe headed Gov. Bruce King's office for many years and Shirley Scarfiotti was Gov. Toney Anaya's top hand during his administration.
Another somewhat unexpected development occurred with the appearance of the Domenici influence. Pete Domenici, Jr. was one of Susana Martinez's competitors in the June Republican primary.
On election night, Domenici was the only one of the five gubernatorial candidates to appear at the state GOP election night party in Albuquerque. Martinez was in Las Cruces and the other three held their own functions.
During an interview that evening Domenici said he would support the winning candidate. The Domenici support for Martinez was not particularly obvious during the general election campaign but now that Martinez is the governor-elect, the Domenici stamp is all over her campaign.
Transition team head Heather Wilson would not have made it to the U.S. House of Representatives without Pete, Sir's help. Pete, Jr. is chairman of the Energy and Environment transition team, which obviously will be very important to the incoming administration.
Steve Bell, a former Domenici chief of staff, heads the transition team to select a chief of staff for Martinez. Former Domenici aide Lou Gallegos also is on that team.
One group that might have been expected to be heavily represented on Martinez's transition team is Hispanics. But Martinez has frequently said that she doesn't want to be known as the nation's first female Hispanic governor. She wants to be known as the governor who pulled New Mexico out of its economic slump.
As this is being written, Martinez has not finished naming all her transition appointments. Reaction to the remaining appointments may give her a good indication about what she would like to see in the composition of her cabinet.


Thursday, November 18, 2010


We are headed to Scottsdale to see the kids and grandkids. Back Monday morning 11-29. Will have computer and will send some columns from there. Cell: 505-699-9982.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

11-24 Let's Hear It For Thanksgiving

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. One of the reasons is that Americans still remember why we celebrate it. Thanksgiving isn't just another holiday, to which we give not one thought other than that it is a day off work.
Nearly all of us truly remember to give thanks and truly celebrate the holiday. Unlike Christmas, there is no stress around giving and receiving presents. The purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving is very simple and very easy to observe.
We're told that all cultures observe some sort of day to give thanks. It seems to be a basic human need to back away from trouble, stress and daily commotion and reflect on one's blessings no matter how meager they may be.
In this part of the country, where we can boast a European presence that predates English settlements on the East Coast, we have some fun claiming that America's first Thanksgiving occurred near El Paso in 1598.
That's when Don Juan de Onate and his band of settlers paused on their journey northward to feast and give thanks to God for getting them through the desert and providing them with a river crossing. But it will never replace the story about Squanto and the Pilgrims.
The observance of Thanksgiving is so comfortable. Family gathers, often from afar. Sometimes good friends without family are included. Generations of cooks gather in the kitchen to discuss and prepare old recipes.
The smell of turkey and the trimmings begins to fill the air. Old stories are told, getting better every year. And after dinner, generations of males step outside to toss around a football. And sometimes grandpa is taken to the emergency room after aggravating that old shoulder injury.
Which brings us to those who can't take off for the holiday: the nurses and emergency room workers, police and firefighters, airline employees and truckers, and most of all, those who serve and protect us around the world.
For some, this will be the first Thanksgiving away from home and loved ones. Many of those will be New Mexicans serving in National Guard units called to active duty in locations far, far away. For them, the taste of turkey will have a very special meaning.
Here's some more reasons Thanksgiving is special. It's a four-day weekend for most people. Who works on the Friday after Thanksgiving? Most employers don't even expect it. Employees trade it for a vacation day or for a non-observed holiday like Presidents' Day.
Of course, mall employees work even harder than usual on the day after Thanksgiving, because it is the beginning of the holiday season, the busiest shopping day of the year. It is called Black Friday because it is the day when many retailers say they finally get to quit using red ink for their bottom line.
Thanksgiving also is a day when it is acceptable to stuff oneself and grudgingly permissible to watch sports on television all day. Well, almost all day. Do we really have to turn off the Cowboy game during dinner?
Thanksgiving gives political columnists the opportunity to give thanks for our first female governor in over 400 years of our state's history. And it allows us to write about the turkeys from out of state who ran the political campaigns.
Thanksgiving is a holiday with which American Indians have trouble. As with Columbus Day, they can't see much need to celebrate the beginning of a hostile takeover of their land.
Some teachers try to add the Indian point of view to the romanticized version of the first meetings between Indians and White settlers. Usually parental concerns put an end to that and schools leave it to families to interpret the holiday in their own traditions.

Regardless of how you celebrate Thanksgiving, please enjoy it and be happy that in this part of the world there's usually green chile in the stuffing and red chile in the gravy.
WED, 11-24-10

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


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

11-22 Gov.-Elect Is Ready For Action

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- A hearty thanks to Gov.-Elect Susana Martinez for assuring that my job will remain easy and fun. For 16 years, with Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson as governors, this job has been a joy.
I woke up every morning knowing they would give me something to write about that day. Former Gov. Bruce King's motto was "Let's keep it between the fence posts." Not much to write about there.
Martinez is not easing into her office, she is diving head first. With the current economic and political situations, she doesn't have much choice. But she's not being timid about it.
So let's look at some of the big items that are confronting her already. We're at the point where band-aids and across-the-board cuts are worn out. Tough decisions now have to be made on what is too important to cut any more and what may have to be completely eliminated.
The Rail Runner commuter train isn't popular with much of the state. The reality that it is almost exclusively for state employees to get to work is underlined this week by the decision to not run on Thanksgiving or the day after,
Thanksgiving's fine. But the day after is the biggest shopping day of the year. Santa Fe merchants are furious. But what do you do with a train that really isn't needed and that no one wants to buy? Susana will look for answers.
The spaceport isn't universally popular. When most people can't afford a Southwest Airlines ticket to Amarillo, we're building a launch pad for millionaires.
Spaceport America does have possibilities for the future however. Not only will millionaires and their families be attracted to the area but space industries too. This has been a Las Cruces project from beginning 20 years ago, which may give Martinez a little more enthusiasm about the project.
She wants to see more private investment in the spaceport. Good idea but she needs to assure that the commitment of Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic remains assured. Any transportation project involves some public investment.
Presumably the state jet is a goner. The plane was built for long hauls and we'll hope Martinez doesn't leave the state as often as Big Bill. It was too much of a campaign issue not to dump the jet.
Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico have long lobbied for a dental school to stand beside its medical school and law school. It would be prestigious and would help students and rural areas. But now is not the time for spending big bucks to build prestige.
Several health organizations recently have announced initiatives to extend dental coverage into rural areas of our state. This will be a non-starter. And if we ever can afford it, how about putting it somewhere else in the state?
Martinez wants to take a close look at the incentives we offer the film industry. A 25 percent rebate on costs incurred in the state is big but it appears the evidence is going to show that we should either stay where we are or get out of the business altogether.
New Mexico is one of 11 states offering a 25 percent rebate. Eight other states offer a 30 percent or better incentive. We have some other advantages, such as being close to Hollywood, where the deals still are done, and having great locations. But dropping our fiscal incentives appears to take us out of the picture.
A new governor plus a shift of 16 votes in the state House could mean another look at medicinal marijuana. Martinez's law enforcement background plus that of some of her advisers, could mean that will be a big issue again.
And what about the death penalty that was repealed two years ago? That could be on the chopping block. And what about collective bargaining for public employees? Abortions could enter the discussion again too.
MON, 11-22-10

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


11-19 The First Gentleman & the Second Fiddle

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Ah, the men in Susana's life. What to do with the first gentleman and the second fiddle? It's a pesky problem.
The first gentleman, Chuck Franco, is unique in New Mexico politics. We haven't had a first gentleman before.
Chuck is retired and so doesn't have a job to go to every day. He was always at his wife's side during the campaign, helping in anyway he could. But now what does he do?
Franco has volunteered to help his wife in any way he can. His areas of expertise are in law enforcement. He worked undercover much of that time so he's good at playing other roles. He's also a hunter and fisherman so he has been appointed to the transition committee for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department and the Environment Department.
When Kathy Carruthers, also from Las Cruces, was first lady, she created a Governor's Mansion Foundation to purchase and oversee the furniture, equipment and decorations in the public areas of the mansion.
The arrangement has worked well, saving the state time, effort and money. The first ladies and foundation members have worked together well in identifying needs and making changes.
An unusual situation arose during the administration of Gov. Gary Johnson. First Lady Dee had worked at Gary's side in their construction business for years.
Every time she and the committee would identify a needed repair or remodel, she would do it herself while the committee was still deliberating. They say she wielded a men hammer. Some similar flexibility may be needed in working with First Gentleman Chuck Franco.
The mansion is decorated according to the first families' tastes from the large collection at the New Mexico Museum of Art. A suggestion has been made that the first gentleman might want to drop by the Game and Fist Department to borrow some stuffed animals.
Anyway, the word is that Franco is a nice flexible guy who should fit in well.
The second fiddle is another problem. Lt. Gov.-Elect John Sanchez hasn't mentioned publicly that he plans to stay home and run his roofing business. So the assumption is that he plans to take the option to be a full-time lieutenant governor.
Evidently his roofing business is big enough that he can leave it. Evidently he would like to stay on the periphery of politics in case he might like to run for higher office someday.
But he is not going to be a part of a Martinez/Sanchez administration. That became particularly evident when Gov.-Elect Martinez sent him out of town for the next 30 days to visit all 33 counties.
Ostensibly the purpose is to learn whether small businesses would like tax breaks, loosing of regulations and streamlined licensing procedures.
The answers in all 33 counties will be yes, yes and yes. Maybe he will come back with some good anecdotes for her speech to the Jan. 18 opening of the Legislature. He is to submit his report by Dec. 31. There is no timetable for its implementation.
The real purpose of Sanchez's trip is to get him out of the governor-elect's hair while she is preparing to run the state. He will be busy performing his only duty, running the Senate, through March. Then Sanchez will have to think of something else for him to do.
You'll also remember the lieutenant governor will fill in for the governor while she is out of state. But if anything unexpected happens during that period, the lieutenant governor best stay out of the way.
The governor's chief of staff handles such matters in consultation with the governor. Occasionally lieutenant governors have had to learn that lesson the hard way and suffer some embarrassment.
To be honest, we really don't need a lieutenant governor. Senators can elect one of their own to preside over their body just as the House does..
Since Arizona has had several governors leave while in office. Voters there were given the opportunity to create a lieutenant governor's post. They rejected it.
FRI, 11-19-10

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


Sunday, November 14, 2010

11-17 Who Hid the Deficit?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- What did I tell you? My column written for Oct. 4, announced a $450 million budget deficit. At the time, the Legislature was predicting a $260 million deficit.
No, I wasn't part of Gov. Bill Richardson's "hide the ball" conspiracy that Gov.-Elect Susana Martinez alleges. My not-so-secret information came from watching the ebb and flow of deficit projections during the past two years.
Even one year ago, Martinez was still chasing drug cartels and her advisers were still back in Washington, D.C. So how were they to know?
Each year, the Legislature's economists have made a deficit projection in September. In early November, the governor's economists make their own projection, which has been higher.
Later in November, finance people from the governor's and Legislature's staffs have analyzed each other's fiscal assumptions and reached agreement on a mutually acceptable figure.
That figure typically has been a little higher than either had previously projected. Some Republican legislative leaders currently are tossing around a $500 million figure. In case you didn't save a copy of my Oct. 4 column, that was my final guess.
Why the difference between the two projections? That has been explained in the newspapers for a week now but Gov.-Elect Susana Martinez's newly-announced finance secretary is still repeating her line about it being a Richardson conspiracy.
According to newspaper reports the legislative analysts assumed that one-time or temporary laws enacted in the last two years will be re-enacted by the 2011 Legislature. The governor's staff didn't make those presumptions. The difference was about $90 million.
A large part of the $90 million was a reduction in the amount of government contribution to retirement benefits for state and local government employees.
The employees picked up the difference but were told it would only be for two years. The two years are up. The last time, unions demonstrated and sued -- unsuccessfully.
Another change between the deficit projections was a further growth in spending for Medicaid as more unemployed applied for coverage.
Another factor is the rising costs of insurance, utilities and other budget items. The legislative figure presumes agencies will absorb those costs in budgets that already have been cut significantly.
New Mexico is one of a few states in which the legislature also prepares budget estimates. It has been regarded as a strength. But in today's polarized politics, it is causing further distrust in government.
Our new governor couldn't be stepping into her office at a much tougher time. She is inheriting a budget mess and has only two months to develop a plan for next year.
She evidently didn't have anyone studying budget figures during her campaign. She made only vague references to the budget and alleged the governor was hiding it from her.
Actually the budget was passed last February by the Legislature and signed with partial vetoes by Gov. Richardson early last March It is a public document available on the Internet.
It is time for the governor's office to give Martinez's new finance secretary Richard May the thorough budget briefing it says it has offered.
The Legislative Finance Committee will be making its final budget recommendations in early December and the governor must submit a budget document to the Legislature by opening day, Jan. 18.
Much of the budget deficit is due to the loss of any further federal stimulus money, much of which has gone to public schools and Medicaid.
Governors also get a big chunk of stimulus to use at their discretion to provide for special needs. That money runs out on June 30. To be fair about it, an outgoing governor would spend half of it and leave the other half to be distributed by the new governor in the second half of the fiscal year. Gov. Richardson has been on a spending spree of late.
WED, 11-17-10

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


Thursday, November 11, 2010

11-15 Tough Times for Political Appointees

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Being a state employee at a time like this is no fun. The vast majority of state payrollers are protected by the state Personnel Act, which prevents new administrations from firing everyone as was the case before 1961.
Although classified employees know they can't be fired without cause, they still are very uneasy during a change in administration. It's especially stressful when it involves a change in political party as it has during the last five gubernatorial elections.
Who will be the new bosses? What will they be like? Will they know anything about their jobs or will we have to train them? Or will they want to change the way we do everything around here?
Employees appointed by the governor are exempt from the personnel act's requirements and protections. Their only question is where they will find their next job.
Both candidates said they would fire all political appointees. That's one of the easier promises to keep. Most governors do clean house and start with their own executive team.
Two years ago, when it appeared Gov. Bill Richardson would be headed to Washington, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish sent a short, courteous form letter to all of Richardson's appointees thanking them for their service and wishing them well in whatever future endeavors they might pursue.
The letter produced a flurry of responses requesting a place in the Denish administration. At that time, there was no stigma attached to the Richardson administration, so some of his appointees might have been able to stick around.
Had Denish won the recent election she likely wouldn't have kept any more of Richardson's appointees than Martinez will. One encouraging word for Richardson appointees is a Martinez statement that they are welcome to apply for jobs because she wants the best and brightest employees.
Martinez's transition chairman Heather Wilson has taken some criticism for a warning that any Richardson appointees transferred to jobs under the personnel act before Martinez takes office will be fired.
That is nothing new either. The personnel act has a probationary period of one year before job protections kick in. Anybody transferred in the past year still can be dismissed without cause. Reportedly, such transfers still are occurring. The only trick for the new administration is to identify those transfers.
The transition team has asked for a list. The governor's office is about as likely to release that list as it was to release the list of 59 appointees the governor claimed he terminated earlier this year.
The only way for a political appointee to play the game safely is to transfer into a classified job over a year before a change in administrations.
At this time last year, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish and her $2 million war chest had scared all Democrats and all the stronger Republicans out of the gubernatorial race.
It appeared safe to just schmooze Lt. Gov. Denish and not worry about moving down to a classified job. But a few state employees took no chances and transferred a year ago. They are safe.
The others will sweat it out for the next year, hoping they can please the new bosses enough in order to stay.
Those who say goodbye to state government on Dec. 31, will find jobs in sales, consulting, working with the family business or any of many other jobs and start looking for a possible 2014 gubernatorial candidate to support. That's what many Republicans have been doing since 2002.
There also is another avenue. The state Land Office turns over from a Republican to a Democrat. Those employees aren't under the Personnel Act. There will be some safe landing spots there for Democrats.
And Republicans can have their shot at the many positions in the Secretary of State's office where many employees were caught by complete surprise when the boss lost big.
MON, 11-15-10

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


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

11-12 Voters Figure It Out

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- New Mexico voters did their usual good job separating the wheat from the chaff when it came to the questions at the end of the November ballot.
Predictably, they gave a sound thrashing to two constitutional amendments designed to give politicians a longer leash. They gave our veterans a couple more breaks And they sent a message to our higher education system that it is getting out of hand.
In an era of "throw the bums out," it is inconceivable that voters would allow county commissioners who have served two four-year terms to run for a third term.
Some small counties argued that they couldn't find enough people to run. If that's the case, since we're already talking about consolidating state agencies and school districts, maybe we should add small counties to that list.
The other defeated amendment in the politico category would have allowed the governor to appoint current legislators to government jobs. That is currently an issue because it prevents Gov.-Elect Martinez from appointing any current legislators to her cabinet.
Those legislators might be the best persons for the jobs. It is often done at the federal level. And it is how the parliamentary system works. But in New Mexico's current pay-to-play atmosphere, it offers too much of an opportunity for a governor to offer a lawmaker a cushy job in return for support on a close vote.
I can name lawmakers from the past who gladly would have taken such an offer. I also can name a recent situation in which it was alleged a person was given a job in return for not running for a statewide office. That's legal.
New Mexicans love their veterans. We have sent more than our share of young men, and now women, off to fight and they have served gallantly. So when New Mexico voters are asked to reward them, we almost always do
Perhaps we were a bit too generous this time. Both measures had problems. One created scholarships for veterans of conflicts since 1990. A similar benefit applies to Vietnam vets.
But there is a 15-year period in between that isn't covered. It's ripe for an unequal treatment lawsuit. Maybe voters figured we could take care of this now and get the other 15 years covered later.
A related constitutional amendment voters approved allows veterans organizations a property tax exemption. This likely will encourage other fraternal organizations to seek similar treatment.
The fifth amendment updated many sections of the constitution that need updated. But one of those sections required a 75 percent approval. The amendment only received a 57 percent approval.111210
Bond issues for senior centers, libraries and public schools all passed easily, as usual. But voters narrowly rejected a higher education construction bond issue for the first time in 20 years.
Disagreement exists about the reason for the defeat. The head of the bond issue committee contends the defeat was due to an anti-tax attitude among voters rather than to problems in the higher education system.
It is easy to say that is wrong because the other three bond issues passed. But the total fiscal impact of the three successful bond issues were about a ninth the amount of the college bond. Voters may have felt that higher education institutions are just doing too much construction.
That would fit with the feelings expressed by many that higher education has expanded beyond our ability to finance it. Communities throughout the state have long been proud of their ability to offer higher education to local residents.
But with the proliferation of vocational colleges, community colleges, branches of four-year institutions and private colleges, lawmakers are beginning to wonder if we have gone too far. They currently are looking closely at the overlap of program offerings.
Also to be considered are the number on on-line education programs that are available everywhere and at a lower tuition cost.
FRI, 11-12-10

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


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- What will Gov. Susana Martinez's administration look like? We can be sure it won't be much like Gov. Bill Richardson's. During her campaign Martinez didn't find much of anything she liked about the current state of affairs.
It won't be like former Gov. Gary Johnson's administration either. It is difficult to imagine two republican governors who are more unalike. Johnson was philosophically a libertarian.
He felt people should have the liberty to do what they want as long as they as long as they don't hurt anyone else. Martinez comes from a law enforcement background and believes in strong, well-enforced laws. We may see a few familiar faces from the Johnson administration but not many.
The appointment of former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson to head Martinez's transition team may give some indications of what Martinez's administration will look like.
Wilson was cabinet secretary of the state Children, Youth and Families Department during Johnson's first three years in office. Reports indicate she was a very demanding, no-nonsense boss. Could that be why Martinez tabbed her to head the transition team?
Wilson says she does not plan to stay on in the administration. Most transition team chairmen do not. But we must remember there are exceptions. Dick Cheney, who was in charge of finding a vice-presidential running mate for George W. Bush ended up recommending himself.
But Wilson reportedly is doing well with her consulting business and is interested in looking at another run for office if conditions look as good as they do now for Republicans.
Some additional hints as to what's coming might be drawn from looking at others appointed to the transition team.
Nicole McCleskey will be deputy chairwoman for the team. She did polling for a national polling firm, of which she is a partner, during the campaign.
Ryan Cangiolosi, who was Martinez's campaign manager for the general election, is director of personnel. Paul Kennedy, a former Gary Johnson appointee to fill a state Supreme Court vacancy, will be chief legal counsel.
Danny Diaz is communications director for the transition team. He operates a communication company from a Washington, D,C, suburb and served as a consultant to the Martinez campaign. He also is a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee.
These top-ranking transition team members all have political ties, some of them nationally. Presumably lower-ranking team members will have experience in areas served by agencies of state government.
It isn't likely that the campaign consultants, especially the national ones, will stick around to serve in the Martinez administration. Campaign types usually don't fare well in government jobs. They soon find them boring without the full-time action of political campaigns.
It is likely Martinez and the transition team will work with even more urgency than transition teams normally do because of items on the agenda of the Legislature starting in just two months.
Numerous proposals for executive reorganization have been made. At present, virtually all departments, despite a legislative mandate for cooperation with examining efficiencies of operation, are fighting any change in operation of their departments.
But the top brass -- all the governor appointees -- will be gone on December 31. That also happens to be the date for the final report of the interim legislative committee studying complete restructuring of state government.
But the cabinet secretaries chosen by Martinez -- all of whom are expected to be new -- may not have the same opposition to reorganization. In fact, they just might be chosen for their flexibility in accepting changes.
If any reorganization is needed, and if it is to happen, doing it during a change in leadership is the ideal time to move.
WED, 11-10-10

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

So sorry. I went thru the motions of sending this column about this time yesterday. But but somehow no one seems to have received it.  Jay

Thursday, November 04, 2010

11-8 This May Have Been Wilson's Year

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Exactly two years ago, we told you the Republican Party would not die despite many pundit predictions to the contrary. Some of those predictions by prestigious news organizations continued for over a year.
We're here to tell you once more that the "shellacking" national Democrats just received does not signal an upcoming death for that party either.
It doesn't work that way. Both parties have strong internal structures that don't break down because of one loss. Heck, some people even say the New Mexico Lobos and Dallas Cowboys will be back. But don't bet on it just yet. Democrats will be back sooner.
One item both parties may need to work on is the national consultants who come out to help candidates. Consultants for both gubernatorial candidates were widely panned for not knowing New Mexicans.
During the past few months, Jeanette and I have had the opportunity to travel to some of our neighboring states and heard the same political ads as we did at home. Only the names were changed.
These guys get paid a ton of money but they're just using a national template. Diane Denish wasn't the only one "fighting for families." So was every major Democratic candidate in every state we visited.
And all Republican candidates wanted "our government back." Interestingly, that stock phrase changed from wanting their "country" back a few months ago. At least Republicans have some flexibility.
Denish's consultants came in for the most criticism, probably because she lost -- and by a significant margin. It was thought that she helped Bill Richardson in eastern New Mexico. In their first election, he won Lea County, where Denish grew up, by one vote. He bragged often about that accomplishment.
Four years later, they carried every county but Catron. Richardson's strength in the Southeast was again credited to Denish. So it is little wonder that despite Denish's lack of involvement in Richardson's administration, the two were very much tied together when it benefited Richardson.
And that likely hurt Denish most. This year, she only won seven of 32 counties, including losing Lea County by a 3-1 margin. It just wasn't her year.
But this might have been the year for either Steve Pearce or Heather Wilson. Both gave up their U.S. House seats to run for the U.S. Senate after Sen. Pete Domenici's retirement two years ago.
After failing in that bid, both were considered the top Republican gubernatorial prospects for this year. The only problem was that Lt. Gov. Denish looked pretty unbeatable at the time. She already had a bankroll of $2 million and the GOP was in shambles.
Pearce decided early to run for his former U.S. House seat but Wilson delayed a decision for months. When she finally decided not to run, she was criticized by GOP leaders for delaying the campaigns of a group of virtually unknown candidates who needed more time to introduce themselves to voters.
As it turned out, one of those unknown candidates waltzed to a rather easy victory.
Wilson says her political career isn't over. If the GOP is still looking strong a year from now, might she challenge Sen. Jeff Bingaman? Or might Sen. Bingaman, who has hinted at retirement previously, decide to hang up his running shoes? He doesn't need the work.
Last Tuesday's election results signaled some strong showings by several candidates who just may be considering a future candidacy. Republican Jon Barela threw a scare into 1st Congressional District Rep. Martin Heinrich.
In fact, all Republicans ran strong statewide races. The amount of advertising from attorney general candidate Matt Chandler, of Clovis, signals his interest in future tries. His father, former state Sen. Caleb Chandler, has taught him well.
On the Democratic side, Gary King and Patricia Madrid are always looking. And state auditor Hector Balderas is frequently mentioned.
MON, 11-8-10

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


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

11-5 The Shape of Things to Come

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- The Republican tide that swept the nation made New Mexico about as Republican as it has been since the Great Depression.
We've had several Republican governors during that period and once or twice Republicans have captured one of the other statewide offices. But this is the first time a Republican has been elected secretary of state since Jesusita Perrault held the office in 1930.
For many years, the Republican Party and the media have had problems with the secretary of state's office. The GOP's primary complaint has been that the office has allowed massive voter fraud to occur throughout the state, although that never has been proven.
The media's problem has been with the lack of helpful, usable and timely information out of the office. With Dianna Duran, an experienced county clerk soon to be handling matters, let's hope that both concerns can be adequately addressed.
Although Secretary of State Mary Herrera has been accused of many misdeeds, her biggest political problem seemed a result of difficulties relating to others, including members of her executive staff and county clerks, many of them Democrats.
In the gubernatorial race, Susana Martinez came away with a convincing victory, although not as big as Duran's victory margin. She will now wee what she can do with a Democratic legislature and some big promises made.
The promises are likely to be her biggest obstacle. She has pledged no tax increases during her four-year term and not to reduce public schools or Medicaid, which between them, constitute 60 percent of the state budget. In addition, she has promised tax cuts in order to stimulate econom8c growth.
Tax cuts may have a long-term positive effect on economic growth although Gov. Bill Richardson hasn't received much credit for his big tax cuts of eight years ago creating any growth. But the short-term effect of tax cuts is that they must be paid for immediately in order to balance the budget.
Martinez has said she is willing to cut up to $500 million out of the budget in her first year. That kind of cut out of the 40 percent of the budget she is willing to touch would be in the neighborhood of a 25 percent cut to agencies if it is done across the board.
But she may not have to cut that much. Current legislative projections are for only a $260 million budget shortfall. The problem with October revenue projections in the past has been that the shortfall tends to increase as the beginning of the January session nears.
The new governor's biggest problem is that she can't cut government spending or reduce taxes on her own. She must convince the Legislature to send her legislation authorizing what she wants.
Both houses are controlled by Democrats so Martinez must seek some bipartisan agreement. That is something she didn't mention throughout her campaign.
But legislative election results may have produced some good news for her. The Democratic majority in the House has been reduced from a 45-25 margin to a 37-33 spread.
The last time Republican numbers were that close to the Democrats, a controlling coalition was the result. Several conservative southern Democrats and opportunistic northern Democrats were convinced to join Republicans in return for committee chairmanships and other favors.
The state Senate is now controlled by such a coalition which elected conservative Chavez County Democrat Tim Jennings as president pro tem of the Senate. The difference in this situation is that Democrats are still in control of the Senate but under the leadership of someone other than their party caucus' choice.
Under the situation that existed in the House during much of the 1980s, Republicans, even though they were outnumbered by Democrats, controlled the House.
The current situation dictates that present House Speaker Ben Lujan lead in a much more bipartisan manner than he might otherwise.
That bipartisan leadership may be just what Martinez needs to accomplish her goals.
FRI, 11-05-10

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