Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico’

Economic Woes a Thing of the Past

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Read or listen to the news, and you are going to walk away thinking the worst is behind us and that the economy is rebounding. There’s been talk about same store sales from McDonald’s to Tiffany’s increasing significantly over the previous year, and even the Land of Enchantment has had “nice” surprises announced:

Figures released by both the Department of Finance and Administration and the Legislative Finance Council say the states revenue is up for the current fiscal year by about $56 million and say next years budget shortfall is predicted to be nearly $40 million less that earlier estimates.

Lawmakers say the latest revenue numbers are reason enough for what they call cautious optimism although they say revenues aren’t enough to fix the state’s significant shortfall.

Okay, reality check here folks. All of this “good” news really depends on what you are using as a baseline comparison. If you are comparing this year’s losses to last year’s losses then yeah, we’re losing less, or in budget shortfall terms, our budget shortfall is less than it was. But, this is by no means cause for celebration. Don’t kid yourselves, not only is the economic picture not rosy, it continues to be downright scary:

States are reporting billions in midyear budget shortfalls, and the crunch is likely to continue for at least several more years, a new report says.

Fifteen states are facing combined budget gaps midway through their 2011 fiscal year totaling $26.7 billion, according to a National Conference of State Legislatures report to be released Wednesday. The other 35 states say they are on target with their budgets. At this time last year, 36 states reported a combined $28.2 billion shortfall.

State government spending has begun to rise after falling sharply during the recession, in part because tax revenues are slowly on the mend as the economy recovers. Even so, revenues remain far below pre-recession levels, and many states face pressure to cut programs and raise taxes to cover yawning gaps in their budgets.

Yes, the shortfall is $1.5 Billion less than last year, but that is still a $26.7 billion budget deficit at the state level. And yes, same store sales are better than last year, but unemployment also continues to rise:

The number of unemployed persons was 15.1 million in November. The unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent; it was 9.6 percent in each of the prior 3 months.

So, what’s the point here? Am I simply trying to be a downer during this holiday season? No, my concern is that those now tasked with cutting the size of government to bring it back in line with economic realities are going to listen to the hype and ignore the facts. By this I mean, they are going to think that we’re on the road to recovery, and therefore, we need to only make temporary cuts. When the truth is that we need to radically cut programs because this road to recovery is going to be paved with losses for a long time still.

Just ask our biggest backer:

The U.S. dollar will be a safe investment for the next six to 12 months because global markets are focused on the euro zone’s troubles but America’s fiscal health is worse than Europe’s, an adviser to the Chinese central bank said on Wednesday.

Economic woes are NOT a thing of the past.

Seriously?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

It looks like the New Mexico’s “golden ticket” is struggling on more than one front.  But, at least someone is still writing fantasies for media distribution:

“Governor Richardson has led the way for ethics reform in New Mexico,” said Richardson spokeswoman Alarie Ray-Garcia.

Are you kidding me? A list of corruption this long, and the Governor is being positioned as the champion of ethics?

Taxes Before Responsibility

Friday, November 20th, 2009

There’s a war brewing for the 2010 Legislative Session. The battle lines have been drawn, and on one side are those that believe government excess should be pared down, and on the other side are those that want to see the tax and spend party to continue by raising even more taxes. The spend, spend, spend people have formed the organization, Better Choices New Mexico, to make their case, which basically boils down to:

This alliance of small businesses, faith-based groups, working families, and nonprofit organizations believes cutting critical services and programs would be a terrible mistake. Instead, the Legislature needs to open the books on tax expenditures, close the loopholes for out-of-state corporations, and rollback the tax breaks for the wealthy.

What’s amazing to me is that essentially what they are defending is the spending gone wild policies that have left us in an economic crisis that should not have occurred. Any organization that wants to be taken seriously about seeing better choices in New Mexico had better address the severe mismanagement of taxpayer funds by the state before asking for more money. Their one-pager makes the case over and over again for increasing revenue, but not once does it talk about cutting expenses. The closest it comes is to suggest shifting dollars from one area of waste to another.

And, mind you there is a lot of waste in government spending in this state. There are the obvious signs of waste that are uncovered everyday:

Nemazee and others connected to Carret Asset Management gave campaign contributions to Gov. Bill Richardson before and after receiving the contract, according to the magazine. “The contract with the State Investment Council, which oversees $12 billion in trust funds from oil and gas leasing fees, has so far yielded $1.7 million in fees for Carret,” the author of the article, Nathan Vardi, reports.

Of course, no one wants to take responsibility for this kind of waste:

Richardson’s spokesman says the governor, who is chairman of the New Mexico State Investment Council, played no role whatsoever in the hiring of Carret.

Only in New Mexico could the Chairman get away with full denial of accountability. Then again, this is the same Governor who can hand out multi-million dollar favors like candy on Halloween
without the least bit of economic restraint, no matter how bad out budget situation may be:

I’m positively shocked that Governor Richardson has been a long time friend of the Hool brothers who are behind the Santa Fe Studios. The project, which I wrote about a few months ago, is being subsidized to the tune of $10 million by state taxpayers with taxpayers in Santa Fe County chipping in another $6 million. The whole thing stinks.

Of course, at the same time as he is pushing for additional subsidies for an already-subsidized industry, Richardson is pushing for tax hikes on the rest of us.

Then, there is the wasteful spending that is not so obvious unless you’re a government insider:


I am a state employee who is faced with trying to determine where to cut groceries, utilities, Christmas spending…I can accept the furlough…However, I looked at the salaries at executive agencies and must ask how did the agency on aging become a full Department? Military affairs? Where did some of these commissions come from? Do we need them or should we place higher expectations on persons employed in these areas? For example, why isn’t the Department of Homeland Security part of the Department of Public Safety?

Why not consolidate programs and eliminate some high salaried executives? Why are we paying outlandish rents for private buildings when there are vacant government buildings? I am not placing the blame on any branch of government, just venting.

Well, someone better start blaming a branch of government. It’s called accountability. But, then again, its easier to push for tax increases than to actually try to make a better choices in New Mexico. After all, it’s all about our children, right?

Three sport utility vehicles purchased for school administrators from an out-of-state dealer. A $91,000 tow truck. Thousands of dollars for iPods for students. Paying athletes and cheerleaders to pull weeds. Lunches, including a $110 tab at the Rio Chama Steakhouse paid for by federal funds intended for low-income students.

These are just some of the questionable expenditures uncovered by audits of five medium-sized school districts that were discussed Thursday at a meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee. One LFC staffer said these audits “barely scratch the surface” of waste and abuse in some school districts.

Yeah, it’s all about the children. Now, you tell me something. Do better choices start with putting more money in state coffers, or does it start by saying enough is enough? Until the people taking and spending our money are held accountable for their fiscal mismanagement, corruption and fraud, I say they don’t get to increase taxes by even one tenth of one percent.

Balancing State Budget Without Taxes or Cuts

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

A special session of the New Mexico legislature will be called to address an expected budget shortfall. Governor Richardson had this to say:

Richardson blamed the shortfalls on the national recession, and he urged lawmakers to avoid layoffs, repealing tax cuts or “drastically cutting services.”

Ok, we’re going to balance the budget without increasing revenue, and without cutting spending. Hmmm… I guess that leaves… um… magic?

And, for Governor Richardson’s next trick, he will attempt to hypnotize the entire state (or at least the voting population and media) into forgetting that a spending spree on steroids is what caused our financial budget crisis in New Mexico.

“Because our budget deficit is directly related to the national recession, I want to make sure that we don’t take any action that might cost jobs or adversely affect the state economy,” Richardson said in the release.

Wow. What an act!

Denish Proposes Secession from the Union

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Okay, maybe that title is a little misleading. Lt Governor Denish didn’t actually advocate for New Mexico to secede from the Union at a recent NAIOP meeting, but she did say:

“I want a New Mexico where a business succeeds or fails based on the quality of its products … not just because they have connections to certain lobbyists,” Denish told about 300 people attending a lunch sponsored by NAIOP, a commercial real estate group.

Heck, I want a nation where that is the case. Of course, that doesn’t seem to be happening. Insurance companies, banks and automobile manufacturers top the list of those whose business continue because they have connections to certain lobbyists.

Actually, in all fairness to the lobbyists, the problem is the politicians who will trade votes for favors or contributions, not the lobbyists who advocate for or against a given company or issue. There are lobbyists on both sides of every issue. They are part of the process, not the problem. Let’s be real here.

As to the relevance to New Mexico pay-to-play scandals, it’s a little too little, a little too late as far as I’m concerned. The Lt. Governor spoke up when the Governor pinched her leg, but until recently, never said a word about the rampant pinching of contributors in return for lucrative state contracts.

Lines are Becoming Blurred

Monday, June 8th, 2009

State government in the Land of Enchantment is mired in corruption with one investigation being launched after another. The lack of indictments and swift action is beginning to take a toll. Now, every incident is being viewed as a pay to play scenario:

“Hi Commish! I know you’re getting pressure from our friend to resolve Mr. Atencio’s issue. I know it is taking a while but it by no means (is) being ignored. It is being redesigned completely to address his concerns.”

That e-mail from a top New Mexico Department of Transportation official has helped reignite an inquiry into whether an Española businessman whose property is needed for a $68 million road project received special treatment from the state.

DOT officials redesigned a portion of the planned reconstruction of U.S. 84-285 last fall after receiving complaints from restaurant owner Luis Atencio. Atencio is one of more than 40 property owners whose northern New Mexico land is needed for project right of way. So far, he has refused to sell.

State Transportation Secretary Gary Girón asked for the internal investigation on May 26 after e-mails surfaced showing that DOT second-in-command Rebecca Montoya and Jim Franken, vice chairman of the state Transportation Commission, got involved in Atencio’s right-of-way fight earlier this year. The “Hi Commish” e-mail was sent from Montoya to Franken on Jan. 5.

This is the second time in six months the DOT’s office of inspector general has looked into the allegation of special treatment.

It is noted in the article that Mr. Atencio made significant contributions to both the Governor’s presidential campaign and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan’s campaign. But, here is the thing. Pay to play, works this way. An individual makes a contribution, and then receives a special favor in return. That would be criminal.

However, if the same individual seeks and receives constituent service, and then turns around and makes a political contribution, that would not be an illegal activity. The problem we have is that since so much pay to play corruption in New Mexico is occurring without prosecution that the lines are now becoming blurred.

One of the unintended consequences of not prosectuing criminals in government is that before long, elected officials and government employees are going to have an excuse to insulate themseleves from everyday citizens for fear of appearing to act in improperly.

Celebrating a Culture of Corruption

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

I didn’t think it was possible, but I think we’ve hit a new low in New Mexico politics. Maybe it’s just the fact that there have been so many corruption scandals in recent years that people have started thinking, “What’s the big deal? Forget feeling shame, let’s start celebrating our corruption.”

Consider the startling fact that a former State Supreme Court Chief Justice and numerous other current and past elected officials think nothing of showing up for a going to jail party for one of their own. Let me repeat that: “A GOING TO JAIL PARTY!”

This is like something out of a Scorsese film. Can you imagine any other state in the nation where elected officials running for office would think nothing of showing up for a going to jail party?

Also attending the Manny farewell, according to our Senior Gators, was former Bernalillo County Commissioner Steve Gallegos, current Bernalillo County Commissioner and ABQ City Council candidate Alan Armijo; former state Senator Shannon Robinson; former Grants State Rep. Toby Michael; veteran political player Guy Riordan and another big name–former Ambassador to Spain and longtime NM politico Ed Romero.

This is beyond troubling. This is downright scary. Tomorrow, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will be in Albuquerque to unveil President Obama’s 2009 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy. That’s all fine and dandy, but the biggest threat to our state and homeland security right now is from within.

When the lives of corrupt politicians are being celebrated by the political establishment, our society is seriously threatened. When subpoenas after subpoenas are being issued and no one is being indicted, law and order is endangered. And, this is not simply a local problem. When political appointees think nothing of shutting down the efforts of career prosecutors fighting to protect our freedoms, we are headed down a dangerous path.

Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neGbKHyGuHU]

Where does this leave us? The answer is that it leaves us in a very scary place. Someone needs to stand up and start questioning those in charge. If the political appointees were willing to shut down the prosecution of such an obvious case of intimidation, what will they do in New Mexico when the sitting Governor and those in his inner circle are facing indictments?

Will U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder overrule the career prosecutors who have been trying to stem the growing tide of corruption in New Mexico, or will he push to protect our homeland security by encouraging the aggressive prosecution of the elected and appointed thieves in our state government? If I was a reporter at tomorrow’s press conference, I’d be asking this question. President Obama promised Change. The administration can start by rooting out corruption. That’s a non-partisan issue.

Investigation Upon Investigation

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

I have to admit at being a bit perplexed. It seems like the general level of public outrage during the NM Treasurer Scandals was significantly higher than it is today in the face of what appears to be a much larger bilking of the taxpayers here and throughout the nation:

Marc Correra has been at the center of the investment controversy in New Mexico.

He is the son of Anthony Correra, a retired stockbroker from New York who agreed to surrender his license in connection with insider trading allegations. The two share a Santa Fe business address.

Anthony Correra was on Richardson’s transition team and a member of the search committee that led to the hiring of Gary Bland as State Investment Officer.

Geez, talk about a smoking gun. Governor Richardson puts a gut on the search committee to hire the the State Investment Officer who had to surrender his license to due to insider trading allegations. Then, his son is paid millions of dollars in fees for deals involving the State Investment Council:

Records show that [Marc Correra] was involved as a placement agent and shared in more than $11 million on nearly two dozen investment deals with the State Investment Council, which is appointed and chaired by Richardson and run by Bland.

Marc Correra shared in more than $4 million in fees for investments made by the ERB.

He has not been charged with any wrongdoing. His Albuquerque attorney, Sam Bregman, said Wednesday he had no comment.

And, when was the last time anyone remembering Sam Bregman having no comment? Heck, you even have a U.S. Senator’s step-daughter and campaign manager of his Senate run being granted immunity. Bottom line, this isn’t a pretty picture. Yet, the general public outrage just doesn’t seem to be at the level it should be. If it was, it would be hard to see how anyone even remotely connected with this administration could be considering a run for anything in 2010.

Now, does that mean I think every elected and appointed official in the Richardson administration is corrupt. No. But, at the very least they were quiet enablers. At some point, heads should start rolling, right? How much longer can all of this go on? Think about the last few years. We’ve had…

Isn’t it about time to clean house? That’s a heck of a list in just four years. I can’t even keep track of which came first. New Mexico has been a one party state for so long that it proves the adage that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s one of the reasons that I think, no make that I hope, that 2010 brings change to New Mexico. We need to restore a balance. It’s also why Ed Rollins recent commentary makes perfect sense:

As bleak as things might seem today for Republicans, I have to put things into context.

I became a Republican in the summer of 1972. I was involved in running President Nixon’s re -election campaign in California and became part of his administration at the start of his second term.

In very short order after my arrival in Washington in January 1973, the Nixon administration came apart at the seams with a daily soap opera of criminal charges, congressional hearings, federal indictments and the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew for bribe taking, followed 10 months later by the resignation of Richard Nixon who was about to be impeached by the Congress.

I was demoralized and ashamed of the leaders of my new party. But I wasn’t going to quit because I still believed in the principles of strong national defense and smaller government, and in the idea that working people should do better than those who don’t.

In the aftermath of all this, Republicans got slaughtered in the midterm elections of 1974, losing 48 House seats and five Senate seats. Republicans had only 144 House members in the 94th Congress.

Two years later, Jimmy Carter was elected president and I was convinced Republicans would be in the wilderness the rest of my political life. After the first 100 days, President Carter’s approval rating was 69 percent — higher than President Obama’s.

And four years after that I was working in the White House as an assistant to President Ronald Reagan — who defeated Carter by a landslide and won a Senate majority and a philosophical majority in the House. For 20 of the next 28 years, a Republican was in the White House.

What’s been going on in New Mexico makes Watergate look like childs play. It’s is time for a change. Anyone that is part of the current insanely corrupt government political structure in New Mexico needs to go in these next rounds of elections.

Indictments are a Distraction

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

By now you know that PRC Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr. has been indicted. How Jerome Block, Jr. ever got elected is still a mystery to me. Everything in this guy’s recent past seemed to indicate this outcome. But, I have to admit that I find this to be a sad statement on New Mexico’s tolerance of illegal behavior among elected officials:

PRC chairman Sandy Jones said it was too early to say whether Block should consider resigning or recusing himself from votes on the commission. Jones said Block had “hit the ground running” and shown commitment to the job since taking office Jan. 1.

“I’m confident right now he’s doing what he needs to do,” said Jones, even as he acknowledged that the indictments were a distraction.

Only in New Mexico politics could an indictment be considered nothing more than a “distraction.”

A New Worst of List for New Mexico Counties

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Transparency was one topic that dominated debate during this recent legislative session. It took many forms. There was the question of whether or not to webcast. The was the question of whether or not to audiocast. There was the defeat of a bill that would have provided a searchable budget online for anyone to search. Now, there is the question of whether or not Governor Richardson will back away from his promise to sign into law a bill that opens conference committees.

Let’s face it, the majority of New Mexico’s elected officials prefer that we don’t see them “making the sausage.” Apparently, this desire to operate under a veil of secrecy is not limited to state government. The Sunshine Review just completed a review of every county website in the country, and guess what they found:

This table shows both the percentage of counties in each state with websites, and the average transparency rating each state received. Averages are calculated by adding up the total number of “yeses” received, divided by the number of counties with websites.

So far, Arizona‘s county websites have received the highest average rating of 6.533. Not only that, but 100% of it’s counties actually have websites. New Mexico fared the worst with an average rating of only 1.222.

Another worst of of list ranking for the Land of Enchantment. Is there really any excuse for this? How many corruption cases do we need before we say enough is enough?