Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

1-19 No Bold Changes Yet

WED, 1-19-11

SANTA FE - So far, there haven't been many fireworks in the transition from what critics called a corrupt, free spending Democratic administration to a law and order, budget-cutting Republican administration.
Maybe we were expecting the baseball bat that unsuccessful GOP primary candidate Allen Weh promised to use to clean up Santa Fe. But the Susana Martinez administration is taking it slowly and deliberately with no drama.
This could be the result of many factors. The transition is moving slowly, perhaps because nearly all the top brass are new to New Mexico state government and they want to be sure they are getting it right. The only huge hurry is the legislative session, which must approve some of the changes Martinez would like to make.
If she works with the Legislature on items such as the budget, she likely will find it easier to get cooperation on some of the changes she would like to make, such as reorganizing some of the departments, agencies and boards of state government.
The "bold changes" Martinez has promised likely will still happen. They just won't be sudden or dramatic. The slowness with which top positions are being filled may be due to restructuring she wants to accomplish in those areas.
One change Martinez already has made is lowering salaries of top staff. She began with her own chief of staff who reportedly was cut from $141,000 to $110,000. That's more than a 20 percent cut. She announced other cuts in the 10 percent range and no cabinet secretaries will make over $125,000.
Martinez also has served notice that this is just the beginning. Further cuts can be expected. She is following the pattern of Albuquerque Mayor R.J. Berry, a fellow Republican. Berry even cut the salaries of unionized city workers. He has been taken to court but so far hasn't lost. Martinez has announced there will be no layoffs or furloughs.
Significant changes are expected at the governor's mansion. The two chefs have been laid off and replaced by a short-order cook. Other staff also may go. First ladies often have had staff to help advocate causes, often ones sponsored by state government.
Charitable groups have had frequent access to the mansion for various functions. This may continue but we may also see the governor and first gentleman spend some of their time in Las Cruces.
The biggest dust up in the new administration, so far, has been over the transfer of crime lab functions from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Outgoing Public safety Secretary John Denko said it was a budget-cutting move. Albuquerque Public Safety Director Darren White said it was less efficient.
Denko started the move the last week of his administration. White prevailed upon political ally Gov.-elect Martinez to announce that she would move the lab back to Albuquerque as soon as she took office.
The entire affair was called a spitting match between two public safety officials who never have cared much for each other. The rest of the story is that Albuquerque and Santa Fe care even less for each other.
Ever since the Santa Fe Ring finagled itself out of a railroad that bears its name, Albuquerque began to grow much faster. In the late 1800s, Albuquerque began efforts to move the state capital from Santa Fe. Santa Fe's response was to build a glorious new capitol building to replace the almost- 300 year-old Palace of the Governors. The building burned to the ground soon after it was finished.
Santa Feans always blamed Albuquerque for the fire and for anything bad that happened since. Numerous state officials have lived in Albuquerque although the constitution says they should live in Santa Fe.
In case you hadn't noticed. The state capital complex is moving south. A large proposed office building south of Santa Fe currently is being fought by downtown businessmen who say its just another step toward Albuquerque.



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