Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

120811 Guv

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez has been in office almost a year now and we're still not sure who she is. That's because she still is a work in progress.
Gary Johnson came into office in 1995 with no gubernatorial or legislative experience and so did Garrey Carruthers in 1987.But Carruthers hired longtime Legislative Finance Committee Director Maralyn Budke as his chief of staff. Budke also had been Gov. David Cargo's chief of staff. She knew New Mexico government from all sides.
Gov. Gary Johnson hired David Harris as chief of staff. Like Budke, Harris had headed the Legislative Finance Committee for many years. He also knew state government inside and out. He knew how legislators think and the maneuvers they make.
Susana Martinez hired Keith Gardner of Roswell as her chief of staff. He had been a respected and efficient House minority whip and frequently the spokesman for House Republicans.
But Gardner was a part time legislator. He wasn't immersed in the intricacies of operating government from the inside on a day-to-day basis.
And neither Johnson nor Carruthers had their former campaign chairman making major decisions about how government operates. Campaign consultants think very differently than government managers.
They don't spend any time working on building coalitions with the opposition party to make things happen. So Martinez didn't spend much time with talking with legislators at all.
During the special session of the Legislature, Martinez called most lawmakers to her office to pitch the issues she was squeezing into the redistricting session. But to my knowledge, the subject of those conversations did not involve finding out what legislators had on their minds.
But Martinez is showing signs of learning. Currently she is working with a bipartisan group of legislators to promote a congressional redistricting plan to Judge James Hall who is hearing the cases.
The plan involves making as few changes as possible, a solution judges tend to like. Other groups are trying to change the balance of power in the central and southern congressional districts.
Gov. Martinez also is softening on some of her early positions opposing programs former Gov. Bill Richardson had pushed. She has surprised many observers with her friendly positions toward the spaceport and the film industry.
Her early comments were that if the spaceport is going anywhere, it will be with private industry sharing the bill. Private industry makes huge investments in developing space hardware but it sounded as though she was asking for help financing spaceport construction.
Martinez didn't show up at the dedication of the two-mile runway last spring but when the terminal building was dedicated this fall, she was all smiles and enthusiasm, even saying she'd like to go on a flight herself.
Fortunately Virgin Galactic owner Sir Richard Branson remained loyal to New Mexico during that period. He is training travel agents to handle those who will be attracted to New Mexico by the action. And he is handling the publicity.
Then there is the film industry Last January it was depriving kids of an education with its big rebates. At Martinez's insistence the rebate was capped at $50 million – half of what had been paid out the year before. And free loans were eliminated.
Legislators passed a bill designed to track the rebates but the governor vetoed it, saying she would do it herself.
But before telling us anything about those figures, Martinez suddenly has gotten quite friendly with movie execs. We're not sure what caused the change in attitude and we're not sure but what New Mexico may have lost the momentum it was building with the movie industry.
Might we see an effort to uncap those rebates in the 2012 Legislature?
As for other Richardson pet programs, the Rail Runner isn't back on anyone's favorites list. The Richardson penchants for cronyism and pay-to-play are beginning to rear their heads in this administration. Only time will tell where those will go.


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