Inside the Capitol

Saturday, March 17, 2012

3-21 Does Gov. Martinez have Rep. Pelosi's problem?

32112 tough Gov
SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez's combative style has brought criticism from many quarters. It is alleged that the governor still is in her campaign mode and that she isn't going to experience many legislative victories until she softens a bit.
That is true but it also is possible that she is feeling her way through the minefield of being the state's first female governor. She needs to appear strong, even tough, in order not to be a pushover. Much of what I am hearing on the street sounds very similar to what was said about U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi when she became our nation's first speaker of the House.
I often thought that if Pelosi were a man, she would be referred to as a strong leader in the image of Tom DeLay, Lyndon Johnson or her father, Tommy D'Alesandro. But instead, the language used to describe her – and Hillary Clinton – was crude and sexist.
This analysis isn't meant to sound like a lecture on political correct ness. Bill Richardson had the same problem of being too combative late in his administration, especially with the Senate. Former Gov. Toney Anaya had a major league problem. His nickname was "Tough Toney" and lawmakers turned absolutely hostile toward him.
Former Gov. Jerry Apodaca, was known as being very tough. He instituted a 55-minute lunch hour for state employees, which he personally enforced by calling departments at 1 p.m. sharp. But he managed to consolidate state government from over 100 separate agencies down to 12 departments through masterful negotiations with lawmakers and agency heads.
Gov. Martinez recently has angered many with numerous line-item vetoes of capital outlay products from the big "pork bill." Those vetoes appear to be directed at lawmakers with whom she has clashed or at counties she didn't carry during the last election.
New Mexico has a pretty awful method of allocating capital outlay money. Amid the confusion of legislative sessions that are much shorter than those of most states, lawmakers from throughout New Mexico go before a legislative subcommittee, accompanied by local officials with large charts under their arms, to plead their case and ask for money.
The total of all these requests comes to many times more than the amount available. The subcommittee winnows the list based on the presentations and various other subjective political considerations. Those projects then go to the governor who has heard none of the local presentations.
One of the few parts of this process that seems somewhat fair is that the communities Gov. Martinez appears to have favored are those that Gov. Richardson didn't favor. Maybe the situation is evening somewhat.
Capital outlay money does not come out of the state's general fund. The bulk of it comes from diversion of some severance taxes from going into the state's severance tax permanent fund. Other money comes from statewide bond issues voted on at general elections and from state revenue surpluses, which have been rare recently.
New Mexico's method of allocating capital outlay money usually is given a C or D grade by national analysts. It isn't that we don't understand how to allocate this money more equitably. Several years ago, the state Board of Education created a Public School Capital Outlay Council that looked at all school buildings in the state and ranked them from worst to best in order to arrive at priorities.
It seems logical to have a state agency appointed jointly by the Legislature and governor that prioritizes local and state requests for capital outlay funding. This is the method used by states with A ratings. But it takes some power from the Legislature and possibly would give a governor pause before issuing vetoes.
Legislators feel that local pork projects are key to their elections. Governors get upset when lawmakers use state funds for local projects. The result likely is to remain a deadlock and no change.


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