Inside the Capitol

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Gov's Popularity Increases

RTR May 2013
Last month we talked about Gov. Susana Martinez being selected by President Obama as one of four U.S. political leaders to represent the United States at the new Pope's installation activities. We also talked about her seeming to get her way with the Democratic Legislature this year.
Now the talk is about the governor being selected by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential leaders.
I'm surprised at there was so little chatter about it in the media or from the Governor's Office. Let's hope she uses that notoriety to promote our state to the world.
And now we hear that our governor polls three percent in a Massachusetts presidential primary survey of possible 2016 candidates.
That's without even trying. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson travelled that state relentlessly in 2011 and didn't score any better.
And to top it off for this month, Gov. Martinez was invited by Vice President Joe Biden to his Cinco de Mayo party. The two evidently became good friends while on their trip to Rome.
With better than a 60 percent popularity rating within the state Susana Martinez is leading a charmed life. Will that bubble ever burst?

It would be a huge feather in her cap if Virgin Galactic could pull off its first passenger trip to the edge of space before the 2014 elections.
Very recently Spaceship Two made its first trip. It achieved a height of 55 miles. The goal is to take it to 62 miles above the earth by the end of the year.
That is sure to require more testing, both in California and New Mexico. Then there are the licensing tests that will be required.
Considering the slow pace at which development of the SS2 has proceeded thus far, it may take more than a year and a half to start flying passengers. So the governor may not get her wish.
But it was encouraging to see Virgin Galactic announce that the SS2 will be flying out of Spaceport America. Executive Director Christine Anderson says whenever the SS2 is ready, we are ready.
When is that big hotel to be built? That is Virgin Galactic's responsibility but I haven't heard them say anything about it lately.
Gov. Martinez is sure to take credit for Virgin Galactic's accomplishments. About the only thing she has done is to help push a bill through the 2013 Legislature to limit liability for space suppliers. Meanwhile Space X and Orbital Sciences already have sent cargo ships to the International Space Station. Neither one of them blasted off from Spaceport America. We no longer have the lead in space.

Attracting movies and television productions to New Mexico for filming is the other area where Martinez has had some problems.
A partially successful effort to cut back on incentives got Gov. Martinez in hot water in Hollywood.
While we were putting limits on how much the state will pay out for incentives, other states were increasing their incentives and leaving us in their dust.
But tweaking the incentive program from 25 percent to 30 percent for shooting TV series and big pictures that use local sound stages has caused a flurry of new productions according to the state film office.
It isn't back to where it once was but with the good luck Gov. Martinez has been having lately don't bet against her. Oh, and an anonymous donor paid for that $2,800 coffee maker, so it no longer came out of state money.

While our governor darts around the nation and world, our immediate past governor, Bill Richardson is doing much the same. He is serving on numerous boards, some of which he heads. He is speaking at prestigious universities.
And he is writing a book, "How to Sweet Talk a Shark." It tells of his experiences successfully negotiating with dictators.
Richardson says the secrets are to connect with them personally. Let them vent about how badly the United States has treated them. Find out what they really need, not what they say they need. And use humor.
Negotiating with dictators is dangerous business. Richardson was basically by himself with no protection other than his own wits. He always had quiet approval of the presidents he served and he was a U.S. official.
But it all was taking place on a back channel. Richardson was good at it and has lived to tell the story.
The book comes out this fall but he already is being interviewed on television and in newspapers.

After several unsuccessful tries at fixing the financial difficulties of the Public Employees Retirement Act, the 2012 Legislature mandated that both the PERA and the Educational Retirement Boards present the 2013 Legislature with a plan that had the support of everyone.
Lawmakers also mandated that the plan involve a shared sacrifice by current retirees, current active members and future members.
That was accomplished although at the request of the governor, the employer's share was reduced from 1.5 percent to 0.4 percent.
It is unfortunate that the biggest shared sacrifice was on the part of employees. They had the least to do with the funds' financial problems.



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