Posts Tagged ‘Legislature’

Wall Street Versus Main Street Continues

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I’ve wondered aloud on more than one occasion why the vast majority of stimulus efforts on the federal level were given to Wall Street versus Main Street. Of course, we all know the reason.  Democrats are providing special favors to their favorite campaign donors and making sure that big inefficient businesses with powerful unions can keep their doors open regardless of the lack of demand for their product.

Well, as near as I can tell, the same thing is happening in the New Mexico legislature – the interests of large business at the expense of small business. Only instead of giveaways of taxpayer money, we’re talking about who the Democrats in the legislature are opting to tax.  Mind you, I say Democrats because the Republicans have made it clear that reining in the size of government should happen before increasing taxes:

Republicans in both the House and Senate are expected to take a hard-line approach against tax hikes, although they bristle at suggestions they’re merely trying to block the Democratic agenda.
    

“They’ve never asked us to be part of the solution,” said Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque.
    

Hall said he thinks there are still ways to trim the budget — by targeting administrative and vacant positions — without hurting core services.
    

“I can’t support any tax increases until we shrink state government down to a level that a populist can support,” he said. 

So, back to the tax, tax, tax enamored House Democrats. Let’s take a look at their proposed solution:

Gov. Bill Richardson said Wednesday he supports the House’s budget approach, which includes temporarily raising the gross receipts tax rate and imposing a personal income surtax on high-earning New Mexicans. 

I’ve explained in a previous post that what is really being proposed is a tax increase on the profitable retained earnings of remaining small businesses.  In other words, the money they need to weather the storm and keep key employees at work is the target of the tax increase. Now, yes, I’m of the mind that significant spending cuts should be made before even considering any tax increase, but I can’t help but wonder if the Democrats are so bent on raising taxes, why they are targeting small New Mexico businesses instead of large Wall Street firms.


Think about it.  The general consensus is that small, not large businesses are the key to a true economic recovery. The irresponsible stimulus spending may have helped keep the doors open of those who are “too big to fail,” but it did nothing to keep your neighbors, family and friends employed:

Unemployment rates were higher in December than a year earlier in 371 of the 372 metropolitan areas and lower in 1 area, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. 

President Obama is finally awakening to the fact that America (and his popularity) is hurting because he has put the interests of Wall Street and unions before that of Main Street families:

Faced with a national 10 percent unemployment rate and a corresponding erosion in his popularity, President Obama delivered his first State of the Union address tonight and offered up a laundry list of proposals aimed directly at the small businesses who do 60 percent of the hiring in America.

So, you’ve got to wonder why House Democrats in the legislature have targeted small businesses and left big businesses alone. Sure some big business tax bills were introduced, but bills like HB 62, which would could raise taxes on large out of state corporations, got a pass in favor of taking more money away from job creating small New Mexico businesses.

Come Election Day 2010 the House Democrats, all of whom are up for re-election, are going to find that it is the Main Street business owners, employees and their families that are going to vote.  You know, the ones that actually live in the state.

It’s Called Permanent for a Reason

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

New Mexico has something called a Permanent Fund.  It is money socked away in recognition of the fact that one day the oil and gas resources that fill our state coffers will be no more. It might be worth visiting Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word permanent:

Main Entry: 1per·ma·nent
Pronunciation: \-nənt\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French parmanant, from Latin permanent-, permanens, present participle of permanēre to endure, from per- throughout + manēre to remain — more at per-, mansion
Date: 15th century
: continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change : stable
synonyms see lasting
per·ma·nent·ly adverb

per·ma·nent·ness noun

Now that we understand the word “permanent,”  I think we can all agree that there isn’t any circumstance in which “Permanent Fund” could be misinterpreted to mean “Rainy Day Fund:”

A type of contingency fund in which money is set aside to be drawn upon in case of a future budget deficit. It is often referred to as a budget stabilization fund.

Yet, that is precisely the type of convenient rewriting of the English language one legislator is promoting:

A leading state Senate Democrat says it’s time to borrow against New Mexico’s rainy day funds for a $500 million loan — a gamble he says would make it unnecessary for lawmakers to approve major tax hikes and cut the salaries of state workers this year.
    

Under the terms of a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, up to $500 million could be moved into the state’s general fund by directing the state’s Board of Finance to issue short-term revenue bonds.
    

The bonds would be paid off over five years via a special fund created for that purpose, Sanchez said, with the money coming from general fund appropriations and a portion of the state’s gross receipts tax revenues.    

Sanchez acknowledged that the bill (SB184) hinges on a wager that the state’s economy will improve in the next few years.

You might consider sending the good Senator from Belen an email letting him know that we, the taxpayers and our children and grandchildren, prefer that he keep his wagering to recreational pursuits done with his own money on his own time at any one of the fine tribally owned casinos found throughout the Land of Enchantment.

Only One Committee Referral

Monday, January 25th, 2010

You can tell a lot about the future of a bill introduced in a legislative session by the number of committees it is referred to before it sees the light of day on the floor for a vote. If a bill has three committee referrals, you can expect it’s got a long uphill battle that will see the session end before the bill makes it to the the floor. When it comes to tax raising legislation, that is what those of us prefer to spend our own money want to see.

On the other hand, if a bill has only one committee referral, then it’s pretty clear that someone with power wants to see it passed.  Last week, we noted that HB 9 INCOME TAX SURTAX bill, had quickly collected a lot of signatures by those who believe in taxing more before spending less. Now, we observe that it has only one committee referral.  If you find yourself in the group that currently pays 59% of the state’s income tax revenue, and you don’t want to pay even more, you better start lighting up those phone lines and filling those inboxes.

 

It Only Took Three Days

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

So, who wants to raise our taxes? If you’re a legislator in Santa Fe eager to raise taxes on small businesses in New Mexico, raise your hand.  No, better yet, just scribble your name on top of the proposed new tax bill.

Oh, sure I understand how some readers might think that this is a tax on the rich, but that’s because they don’t understand how most small businesses are set up.  They are usually limited liability companies or sub chapter S corporations.  That means that the profit from their company ends up on their personal income tax filings.

Now with banks being tight on lending (despite bailouts from taxpayers), most profitable small businesses are keeping those retained earnings in their company to keep their doors open and hold onto their key employees. But, that last lifeline is about to be raided by legislators and the administration in Santa Fe because it’s easier to force more layoffs in the private sector than to cut unnecessary spending in public sector.

After all, who is going to notice if one more small business is forced to close their doors? Well, the answer is I will, and I sure hope you feel the same.  If you find your legislator’s signature on this additional tax on small business, I hope you’ll give them a call and ask them to get their priorities straight. If you don’t know what your legislator’s signature looks like, no problem, you can download this PDF of the entire bill along with the document they signed to kick off the session.

Tax Increases Only Inevitable in Governor’s Mind

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Governor Bill Richardson is all about raising taxes in the upcoming 2010 legislative session. In his mind, a tax increase is inevitable. But, thankfully sounder minds may prevail:


Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, the Finance Committee chairman, said many lawmakers from rural parts of the state — both Democratic and Republican — remain wary of raising taxes during tough economic times, despite the state’s budget deficit.

“There’s no guarantee there’s going to be revenue enhancements,” Smith said Thursday. “I just don’t see an overwhelming vote.”

Lawmakers already have reduced general fund spending by about $700 million, from $6 billion to about $5.3 billion, because of steady declines in state tax revenues. Some legislators say there’s room for more cuts in the state budget, which grew by 50 percent during Richardson’s first six years in office.

First, a word of advice to those that oppose tax increases. Let’s call them what they are – tax increases. The presumably poll tested and less offensive positioning of tax increases as “revenue enhancements” isn’t fooling anyone. The voting public in New Mexico is not as naive as some elected officials would like you to think. If you raise our taxes, we’ll know it. And, we’ll hold it against you. We get enough “enhancement” junk mail in our inboxes to know political spam when we hear it.

With that said, let’s talk about the resistance to cutting the bloated budget – a budget that increased 50% since the current administration took control. Exactly what has this recurring explosion in spending bought us?

  • Is your life better today than it was in 2002?
  • Are schools performing better than they were in 2002?
  • Do you feel safer in your homes today than in 2002?
  • Do you feel more optimistic about your future today than you did in 2002?


My guess is that the vast majority of New Mexicans would answer all of these questions with a resounding, “No!” So, let’s stop talking about tax increases and let’s get back to a time when life was enhanced and government was smaller. It would be a small step back to make a huge step forward.

Hidden Messages

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

If you haven’t heard about the hidden note to legislators from California Governor Schwarzeneggar, you’ll definitely want to check out Steve Terrell’s recent post. Coincidence? Yeah, right.

Now That’s Interesting

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

It’s like the legislature just woke from a seven year slumber, and decided to, well, decided to start acting like a legislature. For seven years, those controlling the legislature have rubber stamped every ridiculously large, bank-breaking budget proposed by the Richardson/Denish Administration.

Now, the piper wants to be paid, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the Richardson/Denish Administration have created, long-term structural problems for New Mexico. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Instead, read what Lt. Governor Diane Denish has to say about the failed policies of her administration:

We know temporary “band aids” applied to remedy our budget shortfalls are not the answer to long-term, structural problems with the state budget. We must craft solutions that work for future generations of New Mexicans.

In other words, what the Lt. Governor is trying to sell us is, “I got us into this mess, so I can get us out of this mess.” Of course, we know that’s not the way it works in the real world. In the real world, when people make bad decision after bad decision that results in the virtual collapse of their organization, they can expect to be fired.

Now in case you’re wondering what type of bad decisions have been made by Rchardson/Denish Administration, you have to look no further than some of the proposals that are being put forth by their Democratic peers in the legislature to fix the “long-term, structural problems”. For example, consider this press release received from Representative Cote:

Rep. Cote introduced HB24 on the floor of the House today. The proposed bill calls for the Governor to reduce the number of exempt employees in cabinet departments and state agencies with salaries over $50,000. According to the bill, cutting at least 180 of these positions would save $8.1 million for the rest of this year and $19 million in the next fiscal year.

“Under the current fiscal conditions, all state expenditures must be analyzed and none excluded. I’ve noticed significant growth in the number of exempt positions in the last several years and the incumbents of which could be placed into permanent classified positions. My bill is an attempt to reduce the size of the state’s payroll. I feel the state government has grown too large for the revenue available in the state of New Mexico,” Rep. Cote (D-Dona Ana, Otero-53) stated.

During the last regular session the Governor said he would trim salaries of 470 exempt employees but, in the past year alone, the number of Governor exempt employees has risen by 27 positions from 789 to 816, while the number of state classified employees has stayed the same. Over the past seven years the Governor’s exempt positions has risen by 281 positions.

That’s right, Lt. Governor Denish has stood silently by as her partner in crime, Governor Bill Richardson, has created and handed out new government jobs as payback for political favors. This practice, among many others has led to the long term, structural problems with our state budget, that now threatens the financial viability of education, social and infrastructure programs.

Of course, Lt. Governor Denish would rather we not point fingers and blame (read: personal animosity):

Legislators should act quickly, she said–putting “personal animosity aside”–because the state doesn’t have “time or money to waste”

Of course, she’s right. The state doesn’t have time or money to waste… Diane Denish and Bill Richardson have spent seven years wasting our money and our time, and the proverbial cupboard is now bare.

Can’t Miss the Parade

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Our elected officials are struggling with how to fix an astronomical and ever-growing budget deficit without cutting expenditures or raising revenue. I’d really like to see the former versus the latter occur, and even those who want to empty our wallets, are struggling with the lack of financial restraint being shown by state government agencies in this time of economic crisis:

“Knowing that, the administration has not put the brakes on spending,” said Ortiz y Pino, who is running for lieutenant governor. “There is no evidence in my mind that this administration in any way slowed down the spending in state government. Now, I’ve worked in administrations in the past, and as soon as there was any question that we were going to be in budget trouble, the word was out. Stop hiring, don’t fill vacancies, no out-of-state travel, no contracts, no printing. Nothing, nothing, nothing, just make sure we get through this OK. Has this administration done anything remotely like that?

In related news…

New Mexico plans to sponsor a float in the 2010 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

New Mexico Tourism Secretary Michael Cerletti said the response from the southern Californian travel market to New Mexican floats in the 2006, 2008 and 2009 parades was tremendous, and a float is a good way to reach potential visitors.

Phew! It’s a good thing we have our spending priorities straight.

Budget Cuts Shouldn’t Hurt Kids

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Governor Richardson’s mantra going into the Special Session this weekend is a simple one: “Budget cuts shouldn’t hurt kids.” It’s one that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn had been voter tested and approved:

But most interesting was $38,353 paid for “research/polling” to a company called Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates in Santa Monica, Calif. Nearly all the money was paid in June, a much smaller chunk paid in September.

It’s a simple message, and a nice diversion tactic. Governor Richardson gets to avoid taking ownership for spending New Mexico into a crisis. He gets to pretend to be the great savior of our children, while trying to turn the legislature into the big bad wolf:


Gov. Bill Richardson late Tuesday rejected legislative proposals to plug a state budget gap that’s now expected to top $650 million, saying at least two of them would cut too much money for public schools.

Richardson called for lawmakers to try again before a special legislative session on the budget starts Saturday.

“Governor Richardson has studied the legislative proposals and finds the cuts to education unacceptable because of the severe impact to teachers and kids,” Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said. “The governor wants one proposal from the Legislature, not three, that makes fiscally responsible cuts without hurting schools.”

But, here’s the thing. The Richardson Administration, and to a great extent the rubber-stamping majority in the legislature have done more to damage education in New Mexico over the last seven years, then anything some cost-cutting could ever do. They’ve herald one supposed “great” education reform after another without ever actually doing anything to improve education for our children. Worse yet, they’ve refused to ever take ownership of their repeated failures:


A new batch of testing results shows New Mexico students’ math scores are among the nation’s worst, with little change from previous years.

The data, released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress and often called the Nation’s Report Card, shows New Mexico’s fourth-graders with an average math score of 230 out of 500. The national average was 239.

The New Mexico average score for eighth-graders was 270, compared to a national average of 282.

The achievement gap between New Mexico’s Anglo students and students of other ethnicities remained wide, without significant change from 2007.

Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia said the overall numbers may not provide a fair comparison because of the small sample of students tested. About 11 percent of New Mexico’s fourth-graders and 10 percent of eighth-graders took the test.

Garcia also said students and teachers in New Mexico often do not take the test very seriously because scores are not broken down by district or school. She said other states use incentives to raise awareness about the test’s importance.

Oh yeah, that’s the problem with the test scores. We don’t have a big enough media campaign to let our kids know that tests are important. They actually know all of the information, there just not taking the test seriously. GIVE ME A BREAK! Here’s a novel idea… How about taking ownership for the education failures?

Look, year after year, we’ve thrown ever-increasing pots of money at education with ever-worsening results. How about we try something different? Go ahead and cut education spending. Let’s stop pretending the children are going to get hurt. Based on the test results released year after year, it can’t get much worse for them.

And, as long as we’re making cuts, how about getting rid of the hundreds of governor created and appointed positions drawing down comfortable salaries for absolutely no work. In fact, let’s fire everyone who can’t seem to get their department to actually provide the services they are supposed to be providing.

Heck, why stop there? Let’s just fire everyone who refuses to take responsibilities for seven years of failures and fiscal mismanagement. Start with Governor Richardson and don’t stop until you find someone who says, “I’ve totally and completely messed up, and this is how I’m going to fix it.” My guess is that before you find that person, the budget will actually be balanced.

Get Our Deposit Back

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

On October 17, the legislature will go into Special Session to deal with the escalating budget crisis that will likely get worse before it gets better. There are legislators that would like to cut expenses. There are legislators that would like to increase taxes. And, there is an executive who is offended that some legislators refuse to live in a fantasy world:


Gov. Bill Richardson might have a new nickname for two of his frequent adversaries in the New Mexico Legislature.

Speaking to reporters Monday after a news conference in Santa Fe, Richardson voiced frustration with Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming.

“I don’t want this gloom and doom that is coming from certain quarters,” Richardson said.

New Mexicans would be wise to listen to the prognostications of these two gentleman. They know of what they speak. One idea that might be worth exploring during this session comes from a 73 year old who bought into the space dream:

When a private spaceship soared over California to claim a $10 million prize, daredevil venture capitalist Alan Walton was 68 and thought he’d soon be on a rocket ride of his own.

Walton plunked down $200,000 to be among the first space tourists to make a suborbital thrill-ride high above the Earth aboard a Virgin Galactic spaceship.

Now he intends to ask for his deposit back if there’s no fixed launch date by his 74th birthday next April.

New Mexicans have put more than a $100 million into Governor Richardson’s space odyssey, and now that its time to pay our other bills. Maybe it’s about time to ask for our deposit back. After all, it’s not like this has come even close to delivering what was promised.

When Virgin officials and the state of New Mexico came together to announce a partnership to turn the commercial space industry into a reality, they estimated commercial flights beginning in 2007 in California and moving to Spaceport America as soon as the New Mexico facility was ready in 2008.

Reminder folks: we’re two months away from 2010! Unlike federally backed NASA, the state of New Mexico can’t actually print its own money to explore the final frontier. We have to live in reality.

Besides, think about it. Do you really want the state government of New Mexico to be directly involved in something as complicated as space launches. Remember, this is the entity that can’t figure out how to do something as simple as answering the phone:

New Mexico has extended call-center hours, upgraded the phone system and added 15 workers. Even so, “We still are receiving reports of people’s inability to get through,” said Carrie Moritomo, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Workforce Solutions.

Of course, they could hire more people, but part of that budget is probably tied up in supporting the Space Authority. So before we start raising taxes, how about we revisit every last one of Governor Richardson’s “great” initiatives of the last seven years, and start asking for our deposits back. And, while we’re at it. Maybe we can eliminate some of those high-paying, low-performing jobs the Governor was so fond of creating:


Five years ago, just eight of Gov. Bill Richardson’s political appointees made more than $100,000 a year. Today, more than 100 earn at least that much.


Hey, it’s just a thought.