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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Susana Martinez Already Balking at Her Campaign Promises on Medicaid, Education

Susanacr Shocked? Not really. Republican governor-elect Susana Martinez is already backing away from her vehement and repetitive campaign promises not to cut the budgets for Medicaid or education in New Mexico. And, ass many predicted, she's using a bogus reason as her excuse.

As you may recall, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) provided one estimate of the 2011 budget shortfall ($260 million) and the Richardson administration later provided another ($450 million). The LFC projection was lower than the one by the governor's office primarily because the two estimates were based on different assumptions -- and the governor's was a worst-case scenario. The LFC assumed that that laws will be enacted next year to continue about $90 million in savings that helped to balance previous budgets, such as requiring government workers to pay a greater share of pension contributions as the state lowered its payments. The Richardson administration didn't make that assumption.

As soon as the governor's estimate came out, however, Martinez started accusing Richardson of playing "financial shell games" with budget figures, even though the information used in his estimate was readily available. As Richardson's Finance Department Secretary, Dannette Burch, explained, most of the projected shortfall -- $397 million -- was from increases in the state's Medicaid costs due to the miserable economy and high unemployment, as well as the end of federal stimulus money that's been used to plug some of the holes in the state's Medicaid budget. Totally predictable, no?

On Monday, Martinez again claimed she was shocked, just shocked about the size of the budget shortfall, and indicated that she''ll be proposing Medicaid and education cuts, after all:

... Martinez acknowledged that net cuts in funding for both education and Medicaid programs will be on the table in January to balance the state budget — a departure from her campaign promises that education and Medicaid budgets would not be cut.

But she went on to say that if education and Medicaid are cut, she will protect classroom spending and "core services." She told a news conference Monday that a growing revenue shortfall in the budget forecast is behind the change in her policy. [emphasis added]

"What we have talked about throughout the campaign, when we understood that the deficit was a little over $200 million, was that we were not going to cut education or Medicaid," Martinez told the news conference. "About a week after I got elected, actually, the deficit grew (by) $252 million."

So what's Martinez saying now about her budget cut plans?

"Only 61 cents of every dollar goes into the classroom right now, and I am committed to making sure that we do not make any cuts to the classroom," she said Monday. "And if there is waste in the administration ... that is something that we will be looking at to make sure we get rid of the waste."

While she said she will consider unspecified cuts to Medicaid in her budget, she also vowed to continue to protect spending in the Medicaid program for "core services to the most vulnerable" people. [emphasis added]

In addition, Martinez seemed to be backpedaling on her campaign proposals for getting more funding to classrooms and to schools where students are struggling:

Also in jeopardy is one of Martinez's primary education proposals during the campaign. She had said her administration would shift $74 million from school "bureaucracies" into the classroom. That money also was slated to pay for several other education reforms Martinez campaigned on, including paying for at least part of the extra resources Martinez said would be assigned to public schools with the lowest student performances.

Martinez said Monday that the current level of classroom spending will not be cut, but remained unclear about whether money saved through her proposed administrative cuts would end up in the classroom or be used to balance the state budget.

As we move closer to her inauguration on January 1, Martinez is still being as vague as she was during her campaign about the particulars of her plans. A good example of that from Monday's press conference:

"We have to be sure, (number) one, to change education and have reform that is going to be long-lasting and that is certainly something we are going to start working towards," Martinez said. "But the budget has to be balanced. That is primary. It is constitutionally required that that happen."

Yeah, Susana. We know. What we need to learn is how you define "core services for the needy" and "classroom spending."

December 14, 2010 at 02:03 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Economy, Populism, Education, Healthcare, NM Legislature 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink

Comments

Hey Susana! A healthy, educated populace makes the best economic sense.

Posted by: Terry Schleder | Dec 14, 2010 3:11:52 PM


Public education and democracy are things of the past. Look ahead, move forward to the new reality. Little people are not part of what is important. Bow to the masters, The Goldman Sacks.

Posted by: bg | Dec 14, 2010 5:38:09 PM

I don't know if anyone remembers this or not but when Gary Johnson took over from Bruce King there was a surplus. Within weeks under Johnson there was a short fall. Johnson cut medicaid not knowing or not caring that the there is a federal 3 to 1 match for medicaid which is considered part of the NM budget. This is going to be a rough ride. I am buying new spurs to dig in and hold on.

Posted by: Stephanie DuBois | Dec 15, 2010 8:30:05 AM