I like and respect former Governor Garrey Carruthers.
I’ve had the opportunity to sit with him on committees, and he has been a friend and an advisor. He is an ethical person with New Mexico’s best interests at heart.
I also believe friends can disagree, so Governor Carruthers let me say, I respectfully disagree with the following statement you made in today’s Journal (subscription):
Carruthers said the panel may discuss something he has long favored – a stipend for lawmakers, who are unpaid although they get expense reimbursement.
When legislators are uncompensated, “there’s always one or two that might feel it necessary to take some compensation in another way,” said Carruthers, who is dean of business at New Mexico State University.
No, no, NO! If someone is unethical, a stipend is not going to help keep them on the straight and narrow. Just consider that the corrupt behavior now under investigation and on trial is not that of “unpaid” legislators. A salary of $65,000 a year was not enough to keep the State Treasurers from lining their pockets. The State Superintendent’s annual salary of $91,495 was not sufficient for Eric Serna. So, just how big are these stipends going to have to be to keep legislators from temptation?
No, stipends are not the problem. The problems are relatively simple, and so are the solutions.
- First, deal with the antiquated reporting requirements. Require everyone to report their contributions in real time on the internet, and allow the reports to be easily searchable.
- Second, have severe penalties for failures to report, and throw those who take and give kickbacks behind bars.
Some very good people are going to donate their time to this “task force,” and I applaud them for that. However, I also know that when Governor Richardson wants to create the appearance of dealing with an issue, he announces the formation of a task force. It’s his bureaucratic answer to a real world problem at a time when we need a real world answer to a bureaucratic problem.