Inside the Capitol

Sunday, April 10, 2011

4=13 Learning About Gov. Martinez

WED, 4-13-11
SANTA FE – We now know more about our new governor, Susana Martinez. Prior to the deadline for acting on legislation, she was sending out mixed signals as far as expectations were concerned.
Martinez signed some bills she was expected to veto and vetoed some she was expected to sign. She even vetoed some bills favored by her big financial supporters. But on the April 8 deadline for action on the 284 bills sent her, she gave us a picture of what we may be able to expect from her the next four years.
Of the 284 bills sent her, Martinez signed 186 and vetoed 98. That approaches former Gov. Gary Johnson's record when he vetoed just over 100 bills his first year in office. Eight stormy years followed. Little was accomplished but since Johnson's priority was shrinking government, he can be termed a success.
Martinez said she wanted to cut the budget and promised bold action. Her budget cutting proposal was modest – less than a third of the $450 million deficit she blamed former Gov. Bill Richardson for leaving her. Not much other bold action was evident other than her 98 vetoes.
Two-thirds of those vetoes were inaction on bills, commonly referred to as pocket vetoes. No explanation for inaction is required so we don't know why she ignored them. It could have been for reasons along the lines used by former Govs. Bruce King and Ed Mechem – a you-guys-send-me-too-much-stuff attitude. But Martinez never expressed that opinion previously.
House Appropriations leader Luciano Varela and Senate majority leader Michael Sanchez see Martinez's vetoes as signaling four years of trouble, especially since she almost never communicates with them. Martinez also vetoed appropriations to fund a legislative redistricting committee and to fund pre-session expenses for next year.
Martinez accused lawmakers of not cutting their own expenses while cutting the other two branches of government. She claims a 10 percent cut in her own staff expenses. Lawmakers are sure to punish her for the vetoes. Delaying the confirmations of gubernatorial appointees will be one way.
Using her line-item veto power on bills other than appropriation measures can be called a bold move. In fact, it is illegal. The actions would have to be taken to court in order to reverse her action.
Another bold action may be her I'll-do-it-my-way approach to some of her vetoes. Gov. Richardson would veto a bill and then issue an executive order to accomplish the same purpose but doing it his way, with him in control.
This appears to be a Richardson practice Martinez will continue. During her campaign for office, Martinez appeared to feel anything Richardson did was poison but she must have decided that he had a few good trick s of his own.
Another interesting development is Martinez's vetoing of two bills she criticized Richardson for vetoing last year. They involved government transparency. Martinez now can see reasons individual rights and privacy might be compromised.
A year ago Gov. Martinez wanted Gov. Richardson off the state Investment Council because of his alleged improprieties. Now that she is chairman of the council, she vetoed a bill to take the governor off.
The law and order bills Martinez championed generally did well. It is an area in which she is well versed and she felt comfortable dealing publicly with those issues. She even testified before a legislative committee on one of the bills, something few governors do.
Martinez didn't accomplish much in the education reform arena as she would have liked. Her education department will get to implement the A—F grading of schools. But the governor didn't get approval for grading administrators and teachers. Regardless, Martinez plans to have a group work on an evaluation system for awarding performance based pay.
All in all, Gov. Martinez did as well as should probably be expected for someone almost completely new to state government. Most governors have previously held high public or political office. Martinez had a steep learning curve to master and she's getting there.


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