URGENT: NM budget deficit NOT $260 million — try $452 million!

From Capitol Report New Mexico - New Mexico’s budget deficit has been revised upwards from an estimated $260 million for next year up to $452 million, according to outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson’s financial expert. The revision — which equates to a staggering 74 percent increase — means the state legislature and incoming Gov. Susana Martinez have a much more daunting task to balance the state budget for the next fiscal year which starts July 2011 and ends in June of 2012. The disclosure — reported by Barry Massey of Associated Press following an interview with Finance and Administration Secretary Dannette Burch – led to sharp exchanges from the incoming and outgoing gubernatorial administrations. The Martinez camp issued this news release late Thursday afternoon:

“The revelation of a near half-billion dollar deficit is far worse than expected and confirms our suspicions that the Richardson/Denish administration has been hiding the ball all along with respect to the true budget deficit. This clearly has very serious implications for all New Mexicans. I will work with the legislature to make the tough decisions necessary to balance the budget by getting spending under control. The long-term solution to our budget crisis is to get our economy moving again and that is why I will oppose efforts to raise taxes. We must put an end to the financial shell games that have been played for far too long.”

Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos then issued his own statement saying:

“[I]t’s not surprising that Susana Martinez doesn’t understand the state budget and the growth of Medicaid since she ignored it during the campaign and has not yet accepted our offer for a thorough briefing.”

AP reports that Medicaid costs account for most of the budget shortfall — $397 million, according to Burch. Medicaid provides health care for roughly one-fourth of the state’s citizens. Read more


APS Votes To Not Ask Students Their Immigration Status

From KOAT-TV.com - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Albuquerque Public Schools board members voted Tuesday to make it official policy that schools will teach all students, no matter what their immigration status is. The informal policy has been to not ask students if they are in the country illegally, but now board members have said that they would like the practice to be official policy. APS board member David Peercy said that they are now following federal guidelines. "These are kids. These are students. These are children. It's really important for us to protect the children that are in our country. Some of them have been born here and their parents may be illegal," he said. Read more

N.M. agencies step in for sacred lake

From the Santa Fe New Mexican.com - by Susan Montoya Bryan of The Associated Press — Gov. Bill Richardson on Wednesday called on a handful of state agencies to help expand protections for a small lake near the New Mexico-Arizona border that is held sacred by American Indian tribes throughout the region. Richardson signed an executive order that spells out the additional protections that tribal officials and traditional leaders at Zuni Pueblo had long been seeking. The order was signed during a ceremony at the pueblo that was attended by hundreds of people. "This day will be remembered in Zuni for a long time to come, not just for what is being signed by our friend Governor Bill Richardson today, but for all the battles that have been fought by a collection of individuals, tribal leaders, organizations and friends of our Mother, Zuni Salt Lake," said Zuni Pueblo Gov. Norman Cooeyate. Read more

Germany rebuffs Obama on trade gap

From the Washington Times - By Patrice Hill - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday rejected a U.S. proposal to try to cap global trade imbalances while the world's other export powerhouse, China, shunned U.S. calls for speedier economic reform. In one-on-one meetings with the heads of the U.S.'s biggest nemeses on trade issues at a Group of 20 economic powers meeting in Seoul, President Obama pressed his case for trying to curb ballooning trade deficits and surpluses to help prevent another financial collapse like the one that toppled the world economy in 2008. But Mrs. Merkel shut the door on any concrete commitment from Europe's export engine to limit its large trade surpluses to 4 percent of economic output — a proposal floated by the U.S. in behind-the-scenes negotiations. "To set political limits on trade surpluses and deficits is neither economically justified nor politically appropriate," the German leader told a G-20 business summit. At her meeting with Mr. Obama, the German leader repeated concerns about the Federal Reserve's controversial decision last week to buy $900 billion of U.S. Treasury debt in the next six months. European officials worry the move will provoke a round of inflation and destructive currency devaluations. Read more

Is the Richardson-Susana honeymoon over already?

From Capitol Report New Mexico - It seems like just yesterday. No, wait it minute. It was yesterday. On Tuesday, Governor-elect Susana Martinez and outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson posed for pictures and were all smiles. Wednesday Heather Wilson of the Martinez transition team released this letter sent to Richardson’s chief of staff: ...Dear Brian, In my first communication to you on November 4, 2010, I asked you suspend any transfers of personnel from exempt positions to classified positions effective immediately. I suggested if there are particularly compelling circumstances, we should discuss them on a case-by-case basis. Today’s Albuquerque Journal reports that, “More of Gov. Bill Richardson’s political appointees have slid into career civil service jobs with state government in recent months … Appointees, or so-called exempt employees, serve at the pleasure of the governor.” These kinds of personnel actions in the waning days of an administration certainly seem to circumvent the will of the people of New Mexico who voted in a new administration into office just a week ago. The fact that some of these employees are apparently moving into jobs with very high salaries when there is a freeze in place for hiring and a $250 million-plus state budget deficit is inappropriate. The Governor-elect has made clear that current employees are welcome to apply for jobs in her administration. She is looking for highly-qualified people of character who share her vision for the state of New Mexico. I am reiterating my request that you immediately suspend any transfers of political appointees to classified posts. Read more

Is the “Orange Barrel Capital” back?

From KRQE.com - ALBUQUERQUE - by Jeff Todd - “It’s a nightmare,” Joe Lerma said as he was waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. “I live on the West Side, and it’s terrible over there," added Louise Cordova. "Every other corner up there off Unser and I-40, there are barrels all up in there." No matter which quadrant of Albuquerque you visit, there’s at least one major road construction project going on. But while drivers are learning to cope with the orange barrels, the city is saying all the construction is a good thing. “We're going after, aggressively, all the capital money that we have that the voters have entrusted us with," said Michael Riordan, the acting director of municipal development for the city of Albuquerque. "When the mayor started his administration, he challenged me, he challenged my department to get as much work as he could. "It takes some time to develop those projects now we're meeting the fruition of that." Almost all of the projects are being paid for by general obligation bonds, and the city says the massive amount of projects underway right now is a good thing for the community. "In about a year from now, when the projects are complete, year to 18 months, the public is going to get the benefit of the new infrastructure, and in the meantime the construction industry is getting the benefits of the jobs," Riordan said. Read more

Lawmakers face $1 trillion decision

From the P0litico.com - Amid voter anger over spending – and in the shadow of a punishing election for Democrats – congressional leaders are struggling to perform their most basic duty: funding the government. None of the options ahead are politically appetizing: one big trillion-dollar-plus "omnibus" bill to cover the rest of the fiscal year; a yearlong continuing resolution (CR) that would keep government agencies funded at their current levels, or a short-term resolution that would punt everything to the new Congress – and the new GOP House majority. Since Congress has failed to clear any of the 12 annual appropriations bills, any option lawmakers choose now will come with an eye-popping cost as they try to fund everything from defense operations to student loans. Read more

Republican Strategy? Run Rahm's Renter

From Chicago Now.com - by Emily Zanoti - Next time I'm condo hunting, I'm going to search high and low for the most infamous landlord Ican find, because clearly, signing the right lease with the right guy can make you a star:

In his bid for mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel could face an unlikely challenger: the man who's currently living in Emanuel's own house. Rob Halpin, the man who currently occupies Emanuel's Northside home -- the same one who refused to move out once Rahm decided to move back to Chicago -- is considering running for mayor himself.

"It's not a joke, I do want to be mayor," Halpin told Ward Room Wednesday. "I'm a businessman and I want to bring jobs to Chicago not the suburbs."What a fortuitous coincidence. It seems as though Mr. Halpin was approached 19th Ward Republican James Parrilli and businessman John Cleary during Sunday's Bears game, explained to him why he'd make an excellent mayor, and recruited him to run, cigars and all. Turns out, he's perfectly qualified: he's a businessman, he can pronounce the word "Chicago" properly, he's got campaign priorities (creating jobs) and, most importantly, he hates Rahm Emanuel. Read more


Tuition fees protest violence 'unacceptable', says PM

From BBC News.com - The prime minister said the clashes in central London, which led to 50 arrests and 14 injuries, were "unacceptable". He praised the "brave" officers who tried to control the crowds, but said "there weren't enough of them". Met chief Sir Paul Stephenson called Wednesday's events "an embarrassment". Seven police officers were among those hurt during the protests outside Conservative Party headquarters at Millbank, Westminster, on Wednesday.
Windows were smashed, fires lit and missiles thrown at police after a group of protesters broke away from the main demonstration against a planned rise in university fees. Some broke into the building itself, although hundreds of workers, including Tory Party staff, had already been evacuated.'Thin blue line' Ahead of a statement in the Commons on the violence Tory MPs Nadine Dorries and Peter Bottomley warned that people could have died. Ms Dorries accused NUS student officials of "egging on" the crowd while Mr Bottomley likened the scenes to the Heysel stadium disaster. Mr Cameron said he had watched events unfold from Seoul, where he was attending a G20 summit, and had been concerned. "I was worried for the safety of people in the building because I know people who work in there, not just the Conservative Party, but other offices as well, and so I was on the telephone." I put it to the PM that we could be seeing a re-run of the Thatcher years. He denied that, claiming that the fact that this government is a coalition ensures that this is not a case of back to the future”End Quote Nick Robinson BBC's political editor Sir Paul apologised to those left inside the building for their "traumatic experience" and said the Met should have been better prepared. Scotland Yard said all 50 of those arrested had now been released on bail until February while police continued inquiries and looked at CCTV evidence. The majority were being held for criminal damage and aggravated trespass. The National Union of Students (NUS) said about 50,000 people joined the demonstration, but according to Scotland Yard, only 225 officers were initially drafted in to police it because no trouble was anticipated. "It's not acceptable. It's an embarrassment for London and for us," Sir Paul said. "I think we've also got to ask ourselves some questions. This level of violence was largely unexpected and what lessons can we learn for the future." Mr Cameron said the situation had been "extremely serious" and welcomed the decision to hold an inquiry. Read more

Of Course Sarah Palin's 'Unfit': She's a Republican

Commentary by Larry Elder - How much of the "Sarah Palin is not ready for prime time" criticism is sincere? When the harping comes from the left, it's difficult to take it seriously. Try to follow the bouncing standards. Barbara Walters gushed over John F. Kennedy Jr. and foresaw a political future for him. Never mind that the young man had flunked the New York bar exam -- twice. "Dumb" former President George W. Bush, caricatured as a slacker in an Oliver Stone movie, made better grades in college than did Al Gore, his opponent in 2000. Gore dropped out of divinity school after earning five F's. Then he entered law school and dropped out. He won a Nobel Peace Prize for his anti-global warming crusade, and his documentary won an Academy Award, but Gore got a D in science at Harvard. Bush also scored higher on his verbal SAT than did Rhodes scholar and "brainy" presidential candidate Bill Bradley. "Dumb" former President Ronald Reagan majored in economics. But the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who ran for the presidency, got expelled from Harvard for hiring someone to take a Spanish test. "Dumb" Republican former President Gerald Ford was ridiculed as a bumbling doofus by Chevy Chase on "Saturday Night Live." Democratic former President Lyndon Baines Johnson famously quipped that Ford, who played football for the University of Michigan, "spent too much time playing football without a helmet." But Ford graduated from Yale Law School, the same school that produced Bill and Hillary Clinton. The worldly and literate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who ran for president in 2004, didn't exactly kill on his military aptitude test. He got half the questions right and half the questions wrong -- dead average. He explained his poor showing by insisting, "I must have been drinking the night before."
Vice President Joe Biden's 1988 quest for the presidency evaporated when he plagiarized a speech by a British politician. When someone questioned his academic credentials at a campaign stop, the offended Biden claimed that he had a full academic scholarship at law school and graduated in the top half of his class. In fact, he had a need-based half-scholarship and graduated near the bottom -- 76th out of 85. Read more

The Politics of Budget-Cutting

Commentary by Victor Davis Hanson - The voters just spoke. They think they want no more gargantuan deficits, massive public spending and exponential growth in government -- or the specter of higher taxes to pay for all of it. No wonder: We are on pace to soon owe 100 percent of our annual gross domestic product in national debt, while compiling the largest annual peacetime deficits in our history. So cutting the borrowing and spending is inevitable if America is to avoid a Greece-like implosion. But as the blood sport begins, we should remember the strange politics that will soon govern the process. First, no one ever reduces government in good times, when we are far better able to limit spending, and the public needs less assistance. Cutting happens only after the economy falters and the money runs out. That fact always leads to a vicious cycle: When the people believe they need public assistance the most, an indebted government is least able to provide it. Recipients become accustomed to the steady additions in federal money they receive and will insist that they can survive only by continual increases, never by their own reduction in expenditures. Second, tax-raising has limits, as we see from the California meltdown. There, a 10 percent state income tax on upper incomes and a sales tax of nearly 10 percent did not result in balanced budgets, but instead either sent high earners and businesses out of state, or made them stop hiring and buying equipment. Employers will prefer to shut down or hide rather than take risks while they feed the ever-growing state beast. Read more

KOB-TV investigates: Over 400 state workers received raises, 20,000 lost pay

From KOB-TV.com - While 20,000 state employees have lost two percent of their salaries to five furlough days this year, KOB Eyewitness News 4 has learned that temporary raises are being doled out to hundreds of select state employees. State officials say these temporary raises have only been given to employees who are taking on more responsibility as a result of the states hiring freeze or are so valuable that losing them would be disastrous to the state. But critics say the pay increases are loopholes to reward a select few. One source who was wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation told KOB certain individuals were receiving 15 percent pay increases during the time when the state was on a salary and hiring freeze.
“We have no money to pay these employees, that’s why we’re on furloughs,” said the SPO employee. Despite the freeze, KOB uncovered over 400 temporary salary increases. The state personnel director, Sandra Perez, says by law the state is allowed to give out several types of raises in times of a salary freeze. Temporary salary increases, or TSI’s, are given to state employees who take on additional duties. Temporary Retention Differentials, or TRD’s, are given to keep employees from leaving their jobs for higher paying positions elsewhere.
A review of over a thousand pages of requests for salary increases turned up hundreds of TSI’s and TRD’s in at least 29 state agencies. At the state’s Public Education Department, around a dozen temporary salary increases were given to employees, including two raises for top administrators who transferred from classified positions into governor-exempt positions. General Manager Stephen Burrell was promoted as PED’s deputy cabinet secretary, increasing his annual $88,670 salary by an additional $6.39 an hour. There were three TSI’s at the Department of Finance and Administration including Deputy Secretary Esther Varela Lopez who saw her base salary of $87,258 increase by about $2,800. Four increases were given out at the Public Regulation Commission, and seven raises were found in the Tax and Revenue Department. The Department of Information and Technology also had seven raises, including the salary for division director Charles Martinez that went from nearly $90,600 this year to $99,000. Read more
Thirty-five temporary raises were given at the Department of Health, while seventeen raises were given to employees at New Mexico’s Health and Human Services Department.
The Department of Transportation had the most temporary salary increases where more than 170 raises were given mostly to road workers.

Speaker of the House Ball is in Tom Taylor's Court

Thomas Taylor (R-Farmington)
A developing mutiny in the New Mexico House of Representatives puts the political ball squarely in the court of House minority leader Tom Taylor of Farmington. Hints of the potential for muntiny began in June when Speaker of the House Ben Lujan barely made it out of his own primary race. Later in the summer, House member and long time Democrat Mary Helen Garcia from Dona Ana County called for "a change in the speaker position" in an interview on News New Mexico. No doubt the thought of mutiny simmered behind the scenes until November 2nd. When New Mexico Democrats lost eight house seats to Republicans as part of the nationwide sweep the mutiny fire began to burn. With the balance of power count in the House falling to a narrow 37-33 margin in favor of Democrats, suddenly the Republicans are in a position for the first time in years to actually get a seat at the legislative governing table in Santa Fe. Shortly after the election speculation mounted on our radio show and in other media outlets around the state that there were serious behind the scenes rumblings.
All the rumors pointed to a possible change at the speaker level. On Tuesday November 9th Democrat Andy Nunez of Hatch was quoted in NMPolitics.net, saying it was time for a change in House leadership. On Wednesday Democrat House member Donna Irwin from Luna County joined Mary Helen Garcia of Dona Ana County in saying she was in favor of a change, even if a coalition with Republicans was necessary. Each of these three house members mentioned Joseph Cervantes of Dona Ana County as an acceptable alternative to Speaker Ben Lujan. There is no longer any doubt that a full-fledged challenge to the speaker position is afoot and the combat in the Democratic Party will be intense in the days ahead of the November 20th caucas date.
What's a Republican to do? House minority leader Tom Taylor of Farmington could simply sit back and see how the fight ends. There are at least two possible outcomes if Taylor sits back. First, the Speaker can survive. In this case, Ben Lujan will, as he has in the past, have little if any use for the input of Republicans in passing legislation. Second, the Democratic caucas might decide to clean its own house with either Joseph Cervantes or another Democrat prevailing. If the house self-cleans, and it is done without the visible support of a coalition, once again the Republicans will be a mere side-show in the legislature. What's a New Mexico House Minority Leader to do? It would seem to many observers that we have the football equivalent of a "loose ball" for a brief window of time. 
It should not be lost on house Republicans that getting any Speaker of the House removed is tricky business. While the current "public" head count of four (Cervantes, Garcia, Nunez, and Irwin) calling for change indicates a bit of trouble for Lujan, it may only be a serious threat if there is a block of the 33 House Republicans are also backing the force for change. This may be the only force sufficient enough to create a seat at the table for the minority party. Many Republicans we speak with believe the time has come for Tom Taylor to pounce on the loose ball. They reason that at this moment in time, and only before the Democratic Caucas on November 20th in Santa Fe, can Taylor, if he marshalls all 33 House Republicans to support Joseph Cervantes, put his party in a position to have a voice in state government for the first time in decades.


Thomas: The Olbermann Factor

Keith Olbermann
From Townhalll.com by Cal Thomas- If MSNBC were consistent, Keith Olbermann would not have been the only on-air personality disciplined for making political contributions. For those who don't watch his "Countdown" program (which would be most of the country), Olbermann was suspended "indefinitely" after it was learned he donated money without approval from management to three Democratic congressional candidates. The problem for MSNBC was not only Olbermann's failure to get permission, but that he anchored part of the network's Election Night coverage. Apparently at MSNBC, the chair you sit in matters more than the content of your journalistic character. Unlike Juan Williams, who was fired by National Public Radio for expressing an opinion on the hated (by liberals) Fox News Channel, Olbermann enjoyed a four-day weekend and is back on the air at MSNBC because he is a liberal and liberals mostly take care of their own. I am intrigued by MSNBC's policy prohibiting host-anchors from financially contributing to political campaigns, because donating money isn't the only way one can make a contribution. Olbermann, along with other MSNBC hosts, regularly make "in-kind" contributions to Democrats by favoring candidates and policies in line with their beliefs. And yes, some host-anchors at Fox, including Glenn Beck, do the same. Read here: