Posts Tagged ‘Train’

Richardson Approval Numbers in Free Fall

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The Teflon Governor is Teflon no more.

We’re going to have our New Mexico poll results out starting tomorrow- perhaps the most interesting thing we found is that Bill Richardson has become one of the least popular Governors in the country, with 63% of voters in the state disapproving of him to only 28% approving. He’s even in negative territory among Democrats at a 42/47 spread.

I’ve always been amazed by Governor Bill Richardson’s early popularity. Despite the rhetoric, the “successes” of this Administration have been nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

And, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on for days, but you can just hit the appropriate label button below and read it all without me repeating it.

So, what does this all mean for the Democratic hopefuls during this upcoming election year.  Well, right now it looks like Richardson Administration #2, Lt. Governor Diane Denish, is still polling out ahead… barely:

Where New Mexico departs from its regional counterparts is that it still looks favored to vote Democratic in its most significant statewide race this year. Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish leads her top Republican opponent, Pete Domenici Jr., by a 45-40 margin and has leads of 14-18 points over the rest of the GOP field.

Denish is by far the best known of the candidates running, with 41% of voters in the state holding a positive opinion of her to just 34% who see her negatively.

 Keep in mind, the Lt. Governor has been campaigning for this position for going on two years. So, I don’t know that those  numbers are anything to celebrate about – especially, considering Pete Domenici Jr. just got in the race a couple of weeks ago.

It’s going to be very hard for the Lt. Governor to start disengaging herself from the Governor after Denish has been so silent for so long. Only 34% of the voters see her negatively right now, but let’s be realistic.  She has operated in the shadow of Governor for the last eight years. His failed policies are bringing him down very quickly.  It’s not going to be very long before that same problem is encountered by Richardson’s #2. This is particularly true when we consider that the Governor spent so much time out of state during his Presidential dream chasing, that the state was actually being run by Lt. Governor Diane Denish.

So Here’s a Thought

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

The union appears to be a little riled with Governor Richardson over the nonnegotiable forced furlough of state employee’s as one tactic to plug the state budget gap:

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 18 says Richardson’s administration violated the law by refusing to bargain with the union over five unpaid furlough days Richardson ordered for 17,000 state workers in December, January, March, April and May.

“It’s a fairly simple complaint,” said Albuquerque attorney Shane Youtz, who is representing AFSCME and its 6,000 members. “We asked politely to bargain and were told no.”

State Personnel Director Sandi Perez said the state fulfilled its legal duties by discussing the furloughs with union leaders in November.

Well, here’s a fairly simple idea for union leaders. Next time, the government starts promoting spending gobs and gobs of money (translation: hundreds of millions) on things like Spaceports and trains, you might want to voice your opposition. After all, it’s things like the ongoing tens of million of dollars in losses incurred by the Rail Runner that are causing your union members to have to take unpaid furlough days:

The red ink lubricating the wheels of the Rail Runner is getting redder. Its operating deficit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009, topped $19 million. It collected a mere $1.9 million in fares against $21 million in operating expenses. The losses are greater than we reported in August. Based on information provided us by the Middle Rio Grande Council of Governments, we reported then that the Rail Runner’s operating loss through May 31, 2009, exceeded $13.4 million. But data for the entire fiscal year, ending June 30, 2009, reveal a number almost 42% higher.

Now, I realize there are several members that might be taking that train up to Santa Fe, but I’ll bet you there are even more that are not. Which mean, that the vast majority of members are going to see a cut in pay, so a handful can pay less than their full share to ride the train to Santa Fe.

It’s just something for you to consider.

Slow Public Transit

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

So, you all know that I’m not really a big fan of the Rail Runner, and I think we’ve all heard of plans to try and expand it all the way down into El Paso and up to Colorado. But, here’s the thing I’ve never understood… If they ultimately want to a train system like that, why the heck wasn’t a high speed train system built? Consider this:

From Rio Rancho to Downtown Albuquerque, where she works, Richelle Hecker thinks she could pare a good 20 minutes off her commute if she drove to work.

But for her, it makes more sense financially — it costs about $10 a week and she limits the wear and tear on her vehicle — to do what she does now.

She boards ABQ Ride’s Route 151 bus to get from Rio Rancho to Los Ranchos/Journal Center Rail Runner station, then takes the train to Downtown.

“I ride it because it’s economical, but if it were actually saving time, I think more people would ride it,” Hecker said.

That’s the thinking behind a proposed study of a “bus rapid transit system” that could connect Rio Rancho and Albuquerque’s Northwest Mesa to the city’s East Side by way of the Paseo del Norte river crossing.

Speed trumps economy for the vast majority of the population. I’ll never understand the rationale behind investing in slower modes of mass transit.

Governor Richardson’s Priorities

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Governor Bill Richardson called the legislators into a special legislative session and according to an article by Winthrop Quigley And Jeff Jones our State Senators were less than pleased with the Governor for doing so (subscription):

State senators on Sunday panned a $58 million-a-year children’s health coverage plan by Gov. Bill Richardson, while blasting the governor himself for calling them into a special legislative session.

Angry senators said the session is unnecessary, will accomplish little and was called only to serve Richardson’s national political ambitions.

“I really have no earthly idea why we are in this building except to serve the political purposes of this governor,” Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, said during a hearing on Richardson’s proposal to provide universal children’s health coverage — a bill the Senate, acting as a committee of the whole, later voted to table.

Sen. Kent Cravens, R-Albuquerque, said a legislative staff analysis of the bill amounts to “a list of reasons not to do this.” And he said it was introduced to give Richardson, who is discussed as a possible Democratic vice-presidential nominee, a “headline” for his speech later this month to the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

The bill is “about self-glorification of a man who is moving on,” Cravens said.

Richardson spokeswoman Alarie Ray-Garcia said later, “Governor Richardson is not concerned about personal attacks made by a couple members of the Senate. Rather his focus, as it always has been, is on getting meaningful legislation passed to give 50,000 uninsured children access to health care and provide relief to working families who are struggling because of high gas prices.”

Ok, let’s just skip straight to the meat of this issue. Richardson’s spokeswoman would have us believe that this session is about the importance of providing 50,000 uninsured children access to health care. The problem with this argument is that Govenor Richardson has been in office since 2002. That means that he has had at least six regular sessions to allocate $58 million for uninsured kids. However, he had more important priorities, for example:

  1. Richardson chose to give billionaire Richard Branson a $100 million gift that just keeps on giving, rather than providing 50,000 uninsured children with access to health care.

  2. Spending over $400 million and counting for a train that serves a very small percentage of the overall state population.
  3. Increasing annual spending by over $2 billion – including an 11% increase in one year alone – without ever giving a second thought to 50,000 children.
  4. Even fish farms have ranked higher than the 50,000 uninsured children.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Oh, and lest you think I’m just just conveniently neglecting to give the Govenor credit for the other “purpose” of this special session – “ provide relief to working families who are struggling because of high gas prices” – it’s important to remember that both the Governor’s spaceport and train require an increase in gross receipts taxes in order to operate long term.

In other words, both of these pet projects require a regressive tax, which takes far more from the working poor than the Governor is offering to give back.

Pay Close Attention

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

We’re paying more at the pump. The economy has cooled and everyday citizens are forced to cutback on their spending. Luckily, the government has the answer (subscription) on how to make our life a little easier:

Plans for a sales tax to support the Rail Runner commuter train and a regional bus system are gaining steam.

Bernalillo and Sandoval counties are to consider this week publishing a legal notice needed to put the one-eighth-cent tax on the Nov. 4 ballot. Valencia County might do the same, though perhaps not until next month.

“I think the Rail Runner’s time has come,” said Alan Armijo, chairman of the Bernalillo County Commission. Voters “at least need the opportunity to decide that.”

The tax proposal must clear one more step before going to the counties — passage by the regional transit board Wednesday. That board, however, cannot put the tax on the ballot itself.

If approved, it will ask the counties to do that. Sandoval County has a meeting scheduled Thursday, and Bernalillo County has one Friday.

“Mass transportation is where we’ve got to start looking to with the cost of gas and lack of river crossings,” Sandoval County Commissioner Don Leonard said.

Yup, this is really going to help. We’re lucky to have such progressive thinking group of leaders in county government. A quick review of the U.S. Census shows that the population of Bernalillo County is 615,099, and the population of Sandoval County is 113,772 for a two county total of 728,871 people. Now consider the record number of people that have taken a ride on on the Rail Runner at its peak:

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express gave 5,980 rides last weekend during the first Saturday of Summer service. That ranks as the second highest daily ridership figure since the Rail Runner began service in July 2006. The only other day that had more passengers was on Friday, August 4, 2006 when 6,148 passengers rode the train – three weeks after service began.

A little basic math, and we learn that at its peak .08% of the population in the two county area is benefiting from the “cost-savings” of the Rail Runner service. So, of course, it only makes sense that 99.2% of the population should pay a little more in sales tax to provide the additional $26 million in revenue.

I owe an apology to Mayor Martin Chavez and others who want to put a light rail line on Central. After reviewing the Rail Runner math, their plan makes perfect sense.

Bill Richardson’s Legacy Begins

Monday, April 21st, 2008

We are already beginning to feel the effects of Governor Bill Richardson’s legacy of spending, spending and then spending a little more:

Gov. Bill Richardson has been a strong advocate of the spaceport.

“The governor is very hopeful the vote will be successful and the project will move forward,” said Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Richardson. “The reality is the state has put in a lot of actual capital and committed a lot of time and energy to the project.”

The tax would add a 25-cent charge to a $100 purchase. State lawmakers also have earmarked at least $110 million in capital outlay money over several years to help with startup costs.

In recent weeks, spaceport director Steve Landeene and other officials have worked to educate voters on what they see as the project’s merits.

So, let’s see, the Governor is apparently two for two. The new train requires new gross receipts taxes to support it. The new spaceport requires new gross receipts taxes to support it. I wonder what else the Governor has pushed through the legislature that will require new gross receipts taxes to support it.

Where’s the outcry from all you people who support buying local? I’ve got to tell you if gross receipts keep going up, you’re going to find more and more people making their purchases tax free online. The burden of these regressive spend and tax policies are on the poorest amongst us. How come the advocates for the poor are not crying out? I don’t get it.

Roads Already in Trouble

Friday, February 1st, 2008

Boy, it sure looks like Governor Richardson is still playing catch up from his one year paid hiatus as Governor. Apparently, someone forgot to tell him the current financial situation of New Mexico roads (subscription):

Gov. Bill Richardson spent Thursday trying to drum up congressional support for New Mexico’s Rail Runner commuter train and remained coy about whether he will endorse a presidential candidate before the state’s caucus on Tuesday.

Richardson said in an interview that he met with Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and asked them to help secure additional federal money for the New Mexico rail project.

The governor said the state is seeking a three-year extension of a federal air quality grant that has funneled $10 million per year to New Mexico for the past two years. That money expires next year.

“We’re committed at the state level to fund it, but we don’t want to have the Rail Runner funds in the future affect our highway funds,” he said. “Getting the federal government to do a little more is one of my objectives on this trip.”

Sorry Governor, you’re a little to late to the game on this one. The Rail Runner has already had a huge negative impact on our our highway funds. And, just how is the state committed to fund it? Hasn’t anyone filled the Governor in on the fact that the state is facing a $4 Billion shortfall?

The president pro tempore of the New Mexico Senate indeed pulled no punches in addressing the attendees at the Association of Commerce and Industry’s business day breakfast in Santa Fe on Jan. 22.

“We’re $4 billion in the hole,” Jennings said of the fiscal challenges facing New Mexico. “But luckily, we have $360 million in new dollars to solve that, so things are looking up.”

Governor Richardson really ought to take a few minutes to visit with the Senator Tim Jennings.

If you ask me, the Governor is looking for funding to cover his fiscal mismanagement of state’s resources for three years. You know, just long enough for him to be long gone from New Mexico and before the the realy big tax increases have to be put into place.

The Railroad to Taxation

Friday, January 18th, 2008

The proverbial other shoe is about to drop on the railroad:

The six-member statewide commission sent a letter to the governor this week encouraging establishment of the new transit district, which would let participating counties first elect to be involved, then ask voters to approve up to a 1/2 percent gross-receipts tax to pay for services.

And, “the tax-cutting” Governor has issued a statement supporting it. As the Governor’s universal health care proposal continues to be pushed, New Mexicans would be wise to remember that so far every “big” initiative this Governor has put forth has been followed shortly after with a cry for a need for new taxes. We’re seeing it with railroad. We saw it with Spaceport America, and we’ll see it with the health care proposal.

My biggest fear is that in the very near future, we will see another attempt to raid the permanent fund to pay for all of these unrealistic and poorly planned new entitlement programs.

It’s North Against the South

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

No, I’m not talking about the Wilson versus Pearce match up to win the GOP primary for Senator Domenici’s seat. What I am talking about is the little train versus space funding fight (subscription) that is sure to dominate discussions during this upcoming legislative session:

“The train is nothing but a local issue, and it helps two of the wealthiest counties. Why is the rest of the state subsidizing them?” asked Rawson, who added that the spaceport “absolutely is a statewide project.”

Hmm… You know, the man has point. I don’t think that anyone in their right mind could argue that a train that only goes from Los Lunas to Santa Fe (eventually) could be a seen as benefiting the whole state. After all, we’re only talking about a VERY small number of riders in just four of New Mexico’s thirty-three counties. Yup, any sane and rationale person would have to deduct that this is a local issue…

But the southern New Mexico lawmakers will confront powerful opposition, including from House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe.

Lujan has the opposite take on the matter. He said Thursday that it is appropriate to ask local voters to share a portion of the financial burden for the spaceport because it will affect mainly that region.

“The Rail Runner benefits the whole state,” Lujan said.

So, much for sane and rationale leaders in New Mexico politics. Speaker Lujan’s comments are sure to leave more than a few people just a little bit confused. After all, Speaker Lujan is saying that Spaceport America is a local issue, but I could of sworn when we were sold this bill of goods by one Presidential candidate it was a very different story:

In announcing the partnership, [Governor Bill] Richardson emphasized that New Mexico wants to be on the ground floor of public space travel. He said that today’s announcement will “change the face of the state and change the face of the world.”

Well, that doesn’t sound like a regional issue, does it? But, wait it gets better. Speaker Lujan’s money quote of the week:

[House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe] added that requiring local support in the form of local tax revenue for the spaceport was necessary to pass the legislation in 2006.

“When you make a deal, you need to stick to it,” Lujan said.

As I recall, the original deal for Governor’s train project promised it wouldn’t take away from road funding. I guess what’s true for the goose is not true for the gander.

Looking Forward to Crumbling Roads

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Governor Bill Richardson is being called to the table on his duplicitous stance regarding Rail Runner funding (subscription):

[Sen. Tim Jennings, D-Roswell] said he recalls lawmakers and Richardson administration officials talking about the plan [to raise taxes] in 2004.

“They pretty much said, ‘We’re going to have to do this,’ ” Jennings said in an interview Tuesday.

The Rail Runner now runs between Belen and Bernalillo at an operating cost of about $9.5 million a year. More than $8 million of that is paid by the federal government, but that funding disappears in 2009.

That will happen just as operating costs are projected to rise to $20 million a year with the extension of service to Santa Fe.

It also coincides with the time that Governor Richardson is hoping to abandon the state of New Mexico for the greener pastures of Washington D.C. The financial house of cards Governor Bill Richardson has built through his spend, spend, spend policy is about to come tumbling down, and as has long been predicted “New Mexico will be on the hook for several projects that will cost millions of dollars in coming years.

So, where does this leave us?

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee, said the state needs to find a funding source— and quickly.

New Mexico is struggling with a huge funding gap for its highway system, estimated by some at half a billion dollars. Critics of the Rail Runner project fear operating costs will eat into money better used on road construction and maintenance.

“The administration is saying it will find other sources,” Smith said. “Who’s going to be sacrificed? I’m submitting that it will be the state’s roads.”

Nice. Think about that during your morning commute.