Monday, January 03, 2011

Rumor: Susana Martinez Plans to Rescind Full Benefits for Domestic Partners of State Workers

With the inauguration of our new right-wing Republican governor, Susana Martinez on New Year's Day on the Santa Fe Plaza -- accompanied by rifle salutes, a cannon shot, fly-over helicopters and even some pro-immigrant protestors --- there's a lot of interest in her plans for the future of New Mexico. We all know by now that her agenda will be BOLD (like her inaugural, at least according to her PR contingent), but details are still lacking as to many particulars. Naturally, rumors and leaks are filling the void.

One of the more compelling (and nauseating) stories making the rounds during holiday get-togethers has to do with Governor Martinez's alleged plan to trash benefits for domestic partners of state workers. Former Gov. Bill Richardson issued an executive order granting health care benefits to workers' domestic partners in 2003, shortly after taking office. Later, in response to a successful lawsuit filed by the ACLU of New Mexico, the state agreed to offer health care coverage to the domestic partners of retired governmental and education workers.

Now several credible sources are passing along this story: It alleges that Susana Martinez was invited to have dinner recently with the Archbishop of Santa Fe. Apparently, this was carefully arranged with respective aides. But on the night of the dinner, Martinez supposedly didn't show up -- she sent Heather Wilson instead, who relayed apologies, saying that the Governor-Elect had a conflict. Apparently, the Archibishop was none too pleased with being stood up, especially after this had been carefully arranged. So, dinner was somewhat tense.

Heather allegedly then added news that she and Susana thought would greatly please the Archbishop: that Susana wanted him to know that one of her first actions as the new Governor will be to issue an executive order to rescind Richardson's order from early in his administration that established full benefits for domestic partners employed by the State.

This news reportedly did not have the desired effect. Instead, the Archbishop supposed responded by saying something to the effect of, "And what makes you and the new Governor believe that I would be pleased that she intends to remove health care benefits from anyone?"

Again, this is just a story that's making the rounds but, given Martinez's strong stand against any recognition of domestic partners during her campaign, it sure sounds like it could be true. At the very least, the LGBT community and everyone who cares about equal rights for all under civil law should be aware that this may be coming soon, and be prepared to respond. We can't let the meager rights we've obtained so far in New Mexico go down the tubes at the whim of any governor, Republican or not. Be forewarned.

January 3, 2011 at 02:49 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Healthcare, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (4)

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 (3)

Monday, December 06, 2010

12/14: Join Brian Colon and Family for a Gratitude Reception and Annual Toy Drive

From Brian Colon:

Gratitude Party 12.13.2010 final(3)
Click image for larger version

Dear Friends, Happy Holidays! I hope this message finds you well.

I am back at work practicing law with Robles, Rael, & Anaya, PC. Thank you for your support this past year. As a token of gratitude, I hope you can join us for this holiday reception at 5:30 PM on Tuesday, December 14th at Casa Esencia.

Please RSVP at [email protected] and let me know if you can join us. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

With gratitude, Brian

Reception Menu

  • Rosemary and Sage Rubbed Turkey served with a Cranberry and Pecan Relish
  • Pear and Brie Wrapped in Phyllo
  • Imported and Domestic Cheese Display
  • Assorted Holiday Cookies
  • Hot Apple Cider

December 6, 2010 at 10:09 AM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, 2010 NM Lt. Governor Race, Brian Colon, Events | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Conservation Voters NM Urge NM Legislators to Sign Pledge to Protect Environment

During her campaign, Republican governor-elect Susana Martinez talked a lot about her determination to roll back regulations, especially environmental regulations, should she win the election. Martinez's campaign was heavily supported by people in the oil and gas industries, as well as other moneyed interests, so rest assured that one of the main thrusts of her administration will be to try and please her big donors at the expense of our state's natural resources. That's why I'm pleased to see that the Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) Education Fund is being proactive in the fight to preserve environmental protections in our state.

CVNM today announced the release of a new website that tracks the responses of New Mexico state legislators to a pledge to protect New Mexico’s environment. The Pledge to Protect New Mexico, which was sent to all 70 state representatives and representatives-elect and 42 state senators, affirms that the signee agrees not to weaken any existing environmental protections in the state of New Mexico.

“New Mexicans want and deserve clean air and water,” said Sandy Buffett, Executive Director of CVNM-EF, in a statement released today. “They aren’t willing to gamble with the health of their families and communities, and they shouldn’t be forced to do so.”

According to CVNM Education Fund, the purpose of the Pledge is to educate voters about “environmental rollbacks,” or legislation that weakens environmental protections. The Pledge also encourages state legislators to recognize that strong environmental policies are critical to maintaining our quality of life, health, and unique landscapes.

The text of the pledge, which is available on the website, focuses on the health and quality of life of New Mexico’s families and workers. It also indicates that environmental regulations contribute to a vibrant economy.

“For New Mexico to succeed in a competitive and challenging economic climate,” reads one clause, “it is essential that we protect the quality of life and unique landscapes that make our Land of Enchantment desirable to workers and businesses.”

What We Can Do
New Mexicans can visit the Legislative Pledge website, www.cvnmef.org/pledge, to find out if their state legislators have signed the pledge. Visitors to the website can then contact their legislators to let them know that they care about environmental issues by thanking them for signing the Pledge or encouraging them to sign if they have not already.

“As transparency and accountability of elected officials have become more important” said Buffett, “New Mexicans deserve to know which legislators are committed to ensuring that we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.”

Visit the Pledge to Protect New Mexico Website: www.cvnmef.org/pledge/. Visit CVNM Education Fund: www.cvnmef.org.

December 2, 2010 at 12:19 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Energy, Environment, NM Legislature 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Susana Martinez Spending More Time With National Republicans Than New Mexicans?

SMartinezCr New Mexicans are hurting. Employment is still inching up as we head into the holiday season. There's an increasingly heated debate going on about how to deal with the $450 million hole in the budget. There's action going on within a number of interim committees regarding critical matters like reforming the state's investment infrastructure and making government more efficient. Meanwhile, it seems that Republican governor-elect Susana Martinez is spending more time plotting political strategies with Republicans on the national scene than in analyzing New Mexico's problems and listening to all sides in an attempt to forge solutions at home.

Early on Martinez, who will take office on January 1, 2011, spent more than a week hobnobbing with fellow governors present and future at the Republican Governors Association convention in San Diego, as well as speaking to the national media. Clearly, the GOP has plans to utilize Martinez in a role similar to that played by RNC Chair Michael Steele (before he became an embarrassment) and Sarah Palin -- to show that, despite policy positions to the contrary, they are supportive of minorities like Hispanics, African-Americans and women. Tokenism at its finest.

Now Martinez is reportedly going to D.C. for a Wednesday "summit meeting" along with more than a dozen other GOP governors-elect at the invitation of incoming U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. The meeting with GOP House and Senate leaders will take place the day before President Obama's bipartisan meeting with the nation's new governors, most of them Republicans, announced by the White House earlier this month.

I can only imagine how successful that will be in getting Republicans on board to pass fixes for some of the nation's many pressing problems during the lame-duck session -- instead of voting no on everything to deny the President and Democrats any claim to a victory. Soon after the mid-term elections, President Obama invited GOP House and Senate leaders to a meeting at the White House to talk about legislation but they didn't show up, claiming they were too busy.

The GOP Congressional leadership has served almost exclusively as an obstruction to meeting the nation's challenges, voting to stop even any debate on vital legislation like the unemployment insurance extension. They have been dedicated to operating on purely political grounds, and to hell with the needs of the people. I guess Martinez feels A-OK being a part of the national politics-on-steroids approach to governing, and likely will be counseled on how to do similar things here in New Mexico.

For now, Martinez seems content to leave Richard May -- a long-time Washington insider who worked for decades for high-powered Beltway lobbying firms and Congressional Republicans -- in charge of her administration's budget analysis and proposals -- while she plays the political version of Dancing With The Stars. Folks are increasingly wondering how interested Susana really is in New Mexico's problems, given her recent laser-beam focus on getting her name out there on the national scene. Right-wing politicos and moneyed interested are almost always very good at getting what they pay for.

November 29, 2010 at 06:59 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Economy, Populism, NM Legislature 2011, Obama Administration, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Susana Martinez Picks Rep. Keith Gardner Chief of Staff, Jessica Hernandez General Counsel, More

The transition team for Republican governor-elect Susana Martinez today announced its selections for a number of positions within the incoming administration, and described their experience:

Keith Gardner, Chief of Staff: Gardner serves as minority whip in the New Mexico House of Representatives, in addition to representing District 66 and the people of Chaves, Eddy, Lea and Roosevelt Counties. Gardner is the managing partner of Sprint Sports Rehabilitation Clinic in Roswell, where he has resided for the last 17 years.

Ryan Cangiolosi, Deputy Chief of Staff Overseeing Boards and Commissions, Constitution Services and Cabinet: Cangiolosi most recently served as director of personnel for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Cangiolosi also served as campaign manager for Susana Martinez for Governor. He's the former Executive Director of the Republican Party of Bernalillo County. He has extensive business experience and is an officer in the United States Naval Reserve. Cangiolosi has a BA and an MBA from the University of New Mexico.

Brian Moore, Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director Overseeing Policy and Cabinet: Moore most recently served as director of policy planning for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Moore is a business owner from Clayton and was a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010. He was a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives from 2000-2008, serving on numerous committees including legislative finance and was a strong advocate for New Mexico’s rural communities.

Jessica Hernandez, General Counsel: Hernandez is a director in the litigation department in the Albuquerque office of Rodey, Dickason, Sloan Akin, & Robb, PA. Hernandez specializes in cases involving product, premises and general liability matters. She has served as a law clerk for the Honorable James O. Browning, United States District Judge for the District of New Mexico and received recognition as the youngest member of the New Mexico State Bar in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Matthew Stackpole, Assistant General Counsel: Stackpole most recently served as director of support and coordination for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Stackpole served as deputy director of campaign operations for Susana Martinez for Governor. Previously, he assisted Richard J. Berry’s campaign for Albuquerque mayor, as well as field operations for the Republican Party of New Mexico. Stackpole graduated from the University of New Mexico Law School in May 2010.

Scott Darnell, Communications Director: Darnell, a Farmington native, served as the communications director for the Republican Party of New Mexico and worked as a weekly commentator on the KNME-TV political discussion program, “New Mexico in Focus.” Darnell is a graduate of the University of New Mexico and received a Master in Public Policy degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is currently completing his work as a teaching fellow in the Department of Government at Harvard University.

Matt Kennicott, Director of Policy and Planning: Kennicott most recently served as director of legislative and constituent affairs for the Governor-Elect Martinez Transition Committee. Kennicott was previously director of campaign operations for Susana Martinez for Governor. He has served as the chief of staff for the House Republican Caucus in the New Mexico House of Representatives.

Where's the "Bold Change"? These are mostly Republican Party insiders we've seen for years. Lots of white males. At least at this point, it sure doesn't look like the Martinez administration is bringing in many fresh faces or much outside energy -- and Hispanics are in rather short supply. 

November 24, 2010 at 03:36 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (7)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Susana Martinez Nugget of the Day: No Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Workers

"I don't support amnesty ... there has to be some other way of dealing with the issue," she told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.

"It may be we identify individuals but we cannot just have a path to citizenship created when there are people in line already doing the proper things." --Republican governor-elect Susana Martinez, CNN interview, 11/10/10

Martinez Even though this statement was uttered by Susana Martinez a couple of weeks ago, I thought it was worth some attention after the fact. Of course I know Martinez wants to repeal the law that makes drivers' licenses available to undocumented workers -- a law designed to make sure they carry auto insurance, and police and other authorities have some means of identification to use in traffic accidents, etc.

What I didn't realize, until now, is that Martinez apparently is also against comprehensive immigration reform that includes any reasonable and achievable means of allowing the millions of undocumented immigrants already in the US -- sometimes for decades -- a way in which to get out of the shadows and get right with the law. I guess Martinez agrees with the likes of Tom Tancredo of Colorado on immigration.

Based on the statement she made on CNN, Martinez appears to be against ANY path to citizenship for the millions of people stuck in legal limbo in terms of their immigration status, even if it is fairly constructed and includes stringent requirements that must be fulfilled before they can be considered for citizenship. Current comprehensive reform proposals like this one would require undocumented immigrants to register, go through stringent background checks, pay taxes, pay a fine, study English and go through a six-year process on their way to becoming full US citizens. Martinez clearly wants none of that.

I wish someone would ask Susana what, exactly, she proposes to deal with undocumented immigrants. Would she round 'em up and send 'em packing -- all 12 million or more? I highly doubt Martinez is knowledgeable enough about the situation to do more than parrot right-wing talking points. After all, Susana doesn't even know what the DREAM Act is -- she thinks it's a scholarship program, or something!

You may wonder why I and others consider Susana's views on this to be relevant, since she will be a governor, not a member of the Congress. The answer? She's already being groomed to be a national mouthpiece for right-wing interests, despite not having spent a single day in office.

At last week's Republican Governors Association meeting, Martinez was touted as being part of the "the new face" of the GOP, and elected to serve as an at-large member of their executive committee. Expect more "tough talking" and anti-comprehensive immigration reform statements to emanate from Martinez as she continues to be molded by the poobahs of the right as a useful tool in furthering their extremist agenda.

November 22, 2010 at 12:53 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Border Issues, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, Republican Party, Right Wing, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

'We Are New Mexico' to Present a 'Better Budget'

We Are New Mexico released the following statement discussing its plans to submit a citizens' budget -- or what the organization is calling a 'Better Budget' -- to New Mexico's new governor and the legislature:

We Are New Mexico, a recently formed New Mexico political organization, aired radio commercials and distributed printed literature regarding the recent election for New Mexico’s next Governor expressing concerns that Susana Martinez had sought and received millions of dollars from out-of-state business interests to assist her in being elected New Mexico’s next Governor.

As an organization of New Mexico citizens, We Are New Mexico is concerned that those out-of-state interests and individuals are now going to be influencing the decisions on important policies affecting New Mexicans and the quality of their lives. These policy areas include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Education Priorities
  • Health Care, Medicaid
  • Childcare
  • Economic Development
  • Water Policy
  • Environmental Policy
  • Consumer Protection
  • Energy Development
  • Ethics in Government
  • Public Safety
  • Transportation Policy & Infrastructure
  • Community Development

We Are New Mexico appreciates the tremendous burden that Governor-Elect Susana Martinez has before her regarding balancing the State Budget without hurting New Mexicans in the process ... particularly some of the most vulnerable residents of our state.

A 'Better Budget'
We also understand that the Governor-Elect is going to need cooperation from all New Mexicans in this process; and in anticipation of the work ahead in January, we are in the process of developing a citizens’ budget ... what we would call a ‘Better Budget.’ The ‘Better Budget’ will be presented as a proposed outline for the new Governor and the new Legislature to review and consider in their mutual deliberations on the fate of New Mexico’s fiscal future. If the leadership of the new State Government honestly seeks to represent the interests of New Mexicans, it will at least give our proposal serious consideration.

We Are New Mexico expects the new Governor, Legislators and other citizen groups truly interested in helping our state’s residents through these difficult times to advance ideas for solutions ... not simply an ideologically driven agenda. And we support a serious debate of the honest and fair minded measures.

But we will be on the look-out for harmful proposals and policies that have been bandied about over the last several months, and represent the same policy that drove our national financial system to the brink of collapse in the fall of 2008, and continue to haunt efforts to turn the United States’ economy around.

We Are New Mexico will explore all avenues to turn around the deficit and New Mexico’s economy. We feel this is not the time to categorically dismiss any idea because of who brings it to the table, or simply because it does not fit the ideology of a new administration.

Therefore, we will include not only our ideas, but the ideas others have begun to advance in light of the coming 2011 Legislative Session. In presenting our ‘Better Budget’ to the Governor-Elect and the new Legislature, we will provide recognition of the people and organizations that have developed some of the components of our budget outline.

Some of the items We Are New Mexico is looking at include:

  • Bonding of Deficit Items.
  • Closing Foreign Corporate tax loopholes.
  • Review of top-heavy administrative positions vs. service positions.
  • Establishment of a ‘Blue Ribbon’ commission headed by the Governor and the Legislative leadership, and consisting of (but not limited to) business, organized labor and non-profit members to review state government and recommend long-term adjustments to make state government more effective in delivering the services that New Mexico’s citizens desire.
  • Provisions for an honest review and assessment of all tax incentives, to determine which actually create jobs and an improved New Mexican Economy.
  • A demand that proposed cuts are accompanied by an assessment of the impact on other aspects of New Mexico’s economy, fiscal status and especially on the most vulnerable people of our state.
  • Establishment of a permanent Executive/Legislative Economic Round Table which would be co-chaired by the Governor and leaders of both branches of the Legislature, and include members from the academic, business and organized labor communities. The Round Table would, amongst other items, focus on developing a demand-pull economic strategy for creating jobs (as Journal Business Outlook columnist Winthrop Quigley recently described), to supplement what exists today as a result of our reliance on the national labs for tangential development of product ideas.
  • Provide the LFC with an increased appropriation to enhance its Oversight Capability to review state agencies, and provide periodic and random review of all executive offices ... to encourage mandates and agencies to evolve in efficiency, as well as determine the efficacy of agencies that may appear to be outdated. In this regard, charge the LFC with seeking the advice and recommendations of rank and file state employees as well as managers of state agencies in its deliberations.

From this process We Are New Mexico hopes to enable the new Governor, the new Legislature and, more importantly, the people of New Mexico to have the BEST BUDGET when all is said and done as the next fiscal year begins.

We Are New Mexico expects to submit its ‘Better Budget’ proposal to Governor-Elect Martinez and the new Legislature in late December. And we wish all of us a productive effort.

November 17, 2010 at 06:42 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Economy, Populism, Government, NM Legislature 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guest Blog: New Mexico Can’t Afford to Get it Wrong About Medicaid

This is a guest blog by Sireesha Manne, Attorney, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

Governor-elect Martinez will soon have to deal with the daunting fiscal challenges facing New Mexico while honoring her promises, most notably to protect Medicaid from further program cuts.  Her commitment to Medicaid is a wise one: few policymakers doubt the powerful and vital role of Medicaid in New Mexico’s economy and healthcare system. The program has been a saving grace for the state, providing healthcare coverage to over half a million people. The program also brings $3 billion federal dollars into our economy that supports over 50,000 jobs, mostly in the healthcare sector.

Yet there has been considerable misinformation in the public eye due to recent news coverage about the costs of the program and about its services in comparison to the programs in other states. Lest New Mexico shoot itself in the foot by taking a slash-and-burn budget approach to a program that has helped the state weather the continuing economic storm, it’s critical to set the record straight about Medicaid.

#1: Medicaid is facing a $360 million shortfall primarily because the state borrowed a huge sum of money from the program that has not been returned. When New Mexico received federal stimulus funds for Medicaid in 2009, the state removed approximately $200 million in state general funds from the program and used it to bail out other parts of the budget in a time of economic crisis. The federal stimulus funds will expire by the end of this fiscal year, requiring the state to replace the money it borrowed from Medicaid. The legislature should repay the loan now as it always intended to do.

#2: New Mexico’s Medicaid program is well-aligned with other states. Recent news articles on the subject assert that New Mexico provides more expansive Medicaid services than other states. However, the facts don’t support this. As the Secretary of the Human Services Department has testified to the legislature on many occasions, New Mexico Medicaid benefits are no more generous than those offered in other states. All 50 states offer prescription drugs, 47 states offer hospice services, 43 offer eyeglasses, and the majority of other states offer hearing aids and dentures. Although these services are not mandated by the federal government, states have chosen to cover them because they are medically necessary and meet the needs of their populations.

Every state also offers Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to children whose family incomes are higher than the federally mandated level. Our income eligibility levels for Medicaid and CHIP are in the middle of the pack compared to other states, with 25 other states having more generous levels than New Mexico for children’s coverage. It is worth noting though, that New Mexico should lead the pack with our Medicaid and CHIP programs, given that we still have the seventh highest rate of uninsured children in the nation.

We do even worse when it comes to Medicaid coverage for parents. Though many believe that reasonably well-off parents can receive Medicaid, this is hardly true. Jobless parents must have very low incomes of less than 29% of the poverty level to receive Medicaid coverage in New Mexico. This means that a family of three must make less than $5,370 annually to qualify for the program. As a fallback for these parents and other adults living in poverty, New Mexico started the State Coverage Insurance program (SCI). But enrollment in this program has been frozen and there are nearly 24,000 people on the waiting list.

#3: New Mexico has already made major cuts to Medicaid, minimized administrative costs, and strengthened fraud detection activities. Those who would complain about efficiency or rising costs in Medicaid should specify what cuts they would propose, because most of these have probably already been made or cannot be adopted because they are unlawful. With federal restrictions on reducing eligibility levels in Medicaid, the Human Services Department has already cut administrative costs, payment rates and healthcare services.

In fact, the Department cut administrative costs even though they make up less than 3% of Medicaid program costs in comparison to 15% to 20% in the private market.

Reimbursement rates to medical providers were cut by 3% due to budget shortfalls and more reductions are in store for hospitals. Managed care contracts were renegotiated to lower costs. And not only was the State Coverage Insurance program frozen to new enrollment, long term care and vision care services were reduced. Numerous proposals are on the table to cut more healthcare services.

Additionally, federal funds have been used to strengthen fraud detection activities. The Department is also consulting regularly with advisory groups of healthcare providers and community advocates to find long term ways to save costs in the program without hurting consumers. This has been difficult work that should be recognized and encouraged.

#4: Medical costs would be even higher without Medicaid coverage. Finally, it’s important to note that costs have risen in Medicaid in recent years because more people are seeking healthcare coverage as they lose their jobs in this recession and because medical costs continue to rise. These are problems that exist throughout the country. However, because we have such a high rate of uninsured in New Mexico, reducing Medicaid would impact us more by pushing healthcare costs for all New Mexicans even higher. New Mexicans already pay twice the national average in extra premiums due to cost shifting from the uninsured to the insured.  Increasing the number of uninsured would make this worse as more care provided by doctors and other healthcare professionals goes uncompensated, more uninsured people use expensive emergency room care, and private insurance premiums increase as a result.

We all have a stake in ensuring that every New Mexican receives affordable healthcare coverage and that our economy receives all the support that it can. Medicaid has been critical to achieving both goals.  It’s important for the new administration to know the true reasons for Medicaid budget shortfalls as they look for responsible solutions that will sustain this cornerstone of our healthcare system and major driver of our economy.

This is a guest blog by Sireesha Manne, Attorney, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page. 

November 16, 2010 at 12:10 AM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Economy, Populism, Guest Blogger, Healthcare, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Susana Martinez Picks Beltway Insider Richard May to Run Finance and Administration

On Friday, Republican governor-elect Susana Martinez nominated Richard May to serve as her cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration. DFA will be the main player within the incoming administration that deals with the state budget, which by all accounts will be a contentious issue during the Legislative Session that begins at Noon on January 18, 2011.

I guess we should be happy the designated DFA head is not a Texan -- at least that we know of -- but it turns out that Richard May, 56, spent 25 years in Washington DC as a Beltway insider. From 1993 through 1997, May served as the GOP staff director for the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee, according to the AP. At other times May was also a federal affairs counsel at the National Conference of State Legislatures and legislative director for Congressman John R. Kasich in the nation's capitol, later working at lobbying and law firms in Washington DC. He is a graduate of Ohio University with a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in political science.

For some background, Kasich, who was just elected governor of Ohio, is a former chairman of the House Budget Committee and a well-known face on the Faux News Network's various right wing shows, including a show he hosted. In 2001, Kasich took a job as managing director of the Columbus investment banking division of Lehman Brothers. He remained at the company until its collapse in September 2008.

Another Outsider
Martinez got a lot of her campaign funding and advice from out-of-state and DC-based GOP operatives. It now appears she's picked another of that ilk to handle the budget. Though the news media seem content to refer mostly to May's short employment at Sandia Labs and not look much further into his record (surprise), he has clearly been among the nation's conservative budget and financial elites for most of his career. I wouldn't be surprised if his loyalties are to them, and not particularly to the working people of New Mexico. Ideology before humans.

May is now the manager of government relations (read lobbying) at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, but he's only been there since March of 2009. He was also an appropriations and tax analyst for the NM House GOP caucus during the 2009 legislative session. The right-wing power players must have sent him into New Mexico early to get a feel for his opponents.  The press release (that I scrounged from other sources because the Martinez transition team press operation won't put me on their email list to receive them) had this to say about May:

May has led a respected and accomplished career that includes working for Sandia National Laboratories as a manager, serving as chief appropriations and tax analyst for the Republican caucus in the New Mexico House of Representatives, and operating as a policy director for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, as well as a principal at Davidson & Company, Inc.

On the Brownstein firm's website, it says:

... Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck now boasts one of the region’s largest real estate practices, as well as national corporate, natural resources and litigation practices, and one of the fastest growing lobbying practices in Washington, DC.
... The firm represents local, national and international clients in legal and lobbying matters across a wide array of industries including real estate, hospitality, private equity, telecommunications, technology, construction, energy, banking, finance, gaming, and water.

Now this is rather interesting, given New Mexico's gaming industry and all the accusations made during the campaign about the Texan Martinez having her eye on New Mexico's water:

As a result of two mergers since January 2007, the firm has undergone incredible growth, doubling in size.

In January 2007, Brownstein Hyatt & Farber merged with Las Vegas-based Schreck Brignone to form Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, headquartered in Denver. The merger added an internationally known private equity/gaming practice to the firm’s list of offerings. Brownstein retained Schreck Brignone clients Wynn Resorts, Inc., MGM MIRAGE, Mandalay Resort Group, Park Place Entertainment, Inc. and Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.

In January 2008, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck merged with Hatch & Parent, a California-based law firm best known for its unprecedented work in public agency and water law. With the addition of Hatch & Parent, Brownstein became the premier water law and policy practice in the West, bringing on Hatch & Parent clients Nestle Waters North America, San Diego County Water Authority, South Tahoe Public Utility District, and the Cities of Fresno and Oxnard.

Only a Vague Outline of May's Career
Of course we currently have no idea of the timelines that apply to most of May's career. The press release announcement appears to be purposefully vague. So we know May spent 25 years in Washington, but not exactly how he spent those years in terms of dates of employment or his specific duties, especially at DC lobbying and law firms.

As for Davidson & Company, Inc., the firm mentioned as a place where May served as a "prinicipal," it's not entirely clear which company that is. A Google search does turn up a listing on Bloomberg.com of an Andrew Davidson & Co., Inc. that says the company "provides risk analytics and consulting services for the mortgage (MBS) and asset-backed securities (ABS) industry," and "a credit model that gives information about the performance of loans by tracking borrower behavior over the lifetime of a loan; and valuation models that provide the analytical platform to make hedging [hedge fund], valuation, and risk management decisions," among other services as described in highly technical terms on the site. It says the company "was founded in 1992 and is based in New York, New York with additional offices in California and Washington."

Hey Reporters: Are You Digging Deeper?
Why did May suddenly decide to move to New Mexico and get a job with the lobbying arm of Sandia Labs? Why was he chosen to serve as the appropriations and tax analyst for the NM House GOP caucus during the 2009 legislative session? We don't know, but you'd think one of our state's enterprising reporters or bloggers who say they are journalists would ask. It would also be helpful if they vetted May's background, as journalists once did, and nailed down when May worked at each of his prior jobs and what he did there. Don't hold your breath.

The "we're journalists" contingent seems mostly hung up on stories about yammering and backbiting by the Martinez camp aimed at the "Richardson-Denish" administration, and pure speculation about who will serve as Speaker of the House in the next legislative session. That's unfortunate, because these are the people who have official "press credentials" they can use when calling May's former employees and pushing for other info. I don't.

We do know that May donated $1,500 to Martinez’s campaign in October, according to numbers from the Secretary of State’s office.

Budget Comments by May and Martinez
May accepted Martinez’s request to be her first nominee “with great honor.” According to the AP article, May said Martinez “is completely unsatisfied – as are the vast majority of New Mexicans – with how the budget has been managed and with the waste of hard-earned dollars. I will work day and night to get New Mexico back on firm financial footing following the governor-elect’s strong and principled leadership.”

"The magnitude of the budget shortfall is sort of daunting but at the same it's also an opportunity," May continued. "We have an opportunity not only to reform government but also to enact a lot of needed efficiencies within how we spend taxpayers' money. And of course, I think that's what the voters said in November. They wanted no tax increases and they wanted effective government and they wanted us to work together with the Legislature and the entire administration."

For her part, Martinez said, “The failure of state government to live within its means is inexcusable and it’s time we make the tough decisions necessary to finally put our fiscal house in order. In doing so, we must be mindful that the long-term solution to our budget crisis is economic growth and that is why we must balance the budget by cutting spending, rather than raising taxes, so we can create an environment where small businesses can grow and create jobs.”

May Will Stay at Sandia Until January
May reportedly "will continue to work at Sandia until the end of the year, but said he will immediately begin dealing with the state's budget issues." Must be nice to have a job where you get paid while working at other unrelated duties. Martinez, herself, is apparently set on keeping her job as Dona Ana County DA until she takes office at the end of this year. I wonder how much time she'll be putting in at that job between now and January 1st. Any bets?

November 15, 2010 at 02:45 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Corporatism, Economy, Populism, Finance, Investments, NM Legislature 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Susana Martinez: DREAM Act? What's That?

Susanamartinezcr Embarrassing, but telling. In an interview with Latina Magazine, our new Republican governor-elect Susana Martinez -- you know, the "new face of the Republican Party" -- had to admit she didn't know what the critically important and historic DREAM Act is. The exchange:

Latina: Do you support the DREAM Act?

Susana Martinez: Remind me. I know that the scholarship...

Latina: The DREAM Act is the law that people have been trying to pass for 10 years that would allow children of illegal immigrants to stay in the country as long as they go to college or perform military service.

Susana Martinez: Oh, yes, yes, yes. OK, I do know that.

When asked to describe what ideal comprehensive immigration reform would look like, Martinez said,

I don’t know what the comprehensive reform act would be.

She then goes on to talk about securing the border and cracking down on the criminals who cross it, as she always does, because she seems to view almost every problem solely through the narrow lens of a prosecutor. However, she does say,

I think that [the DREAM Act] has to become part of the comprehensive immigration reform that the government has failed to take on and take on in a very serious way.

Aha, she doesn't know what comprehensive reform should be, but she knows the DREAM Act should be a part of it -- once she's reminded what the DREAM Act is. I see.

A Scholarship Program?
Then again, Martinez still doesn't seem to get it because she goes on to talk about the DREAM Act as if it's a scholarship program, which it's not:

Susana Martinez: What I am concerned about is that we have New Mexico citizens who want to attend college and there’s only so much funding to go around. Are we excluding people that are in New Mexico who are in the military service and have served our country and are here legally and cannot receive that kind of funding to attend college because the funds are limited? 

Do you understand how creating a path to citizenship for children of undocumented workers who meet certain specific criteria -- if they go to college or enlist in the military -- would jeopardize funding for citizens to go to school or join the military? Me neither. Maybe some up and at 'em New Mexico reporter should ask her that question and demand a specific answer. I won't hold my breath.

November 11, 2010 at 09:42 PM in 2010 General Election, 2010 NM Governor's Race, Border Issues, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (7)

UNM Regent Jack Fortner Denies Campaign Donations Led to Position on Martinez Transition Team

Remember all the accusations and racket GOP governor-elect Susana Martinez made during the campaign about alleged corruption and pay to play in Santa Fe? Remember how one of her biggest talking points was that she was going to bring "bold change" and unprecedented transparency and ethics to the job, if elected? It now appears that all those statements may have been just for show, for buffaloing voters into thinking she was on their side and free of the kind of political cronyism she pledged to eradicate.

More and more evidence is emerging by the day that a significant number of Martinez's appointments to her various transitional search committees are going to people who made significant campaign contributions to her and other right-wing candidates. Take UNM Regent Jack Fortner, who was named to the search committee on public and higher education. According to an article in the Daily Lobo, Fortner contributed more than $40,000 to the Susana Martinez campaign:

Fortner made five contributions totaling $40,250, including a $20,000 donation to Martinez’s campaign just weeks before Election Day.

“Two years ago, I was planning on running for governor, and I set aside $200,000 for my campaign,” Fortner said. “I made my contributions with the money I set aside.”

Fortner’s other contributions were $2,500 on April 28, $10,000 on May 25, $3,250 on June 1, $2,500 on June 8 and $2,000 on Sept. 10, according to the campaign finance information system on the Secretary of State’s website.

... Fortner said there is no connection between his appointment to the transition team and his campaign donations.

Fortner's term on the Board of Regents ends in January, the same month Martinez takes office. She could reappoint Fortner as a Regent, but Fortner has said, "That’s something we have not even discussed." He was first appointed to the post in 1999 by Republican Governor Gary Johnson.

Fortner has made other donations to Republican candidates:

Fortner also donated the maximum allowed by the Federal Election Commission, $2,500 per individual, to Steve Pearce, who won the U.S. House District 2 seat in southern New Mexico against Harry Teague. Fortner lives in Farmington.

“I also gave some to Matt Chandler,” Fortner said, referring to the Republican candidate for state attorney general.

Fortner has a consistent history contributing to Republican candidates. In 2008, he gave maximum contributions to John McCain and Darren White.

Las Cruces business owner Keri Mitchell, another member of the education search committee, donated a total of $3,000 to the Susana Martinez campaign, according to the New Mexico Secretary of State's site.

November 11, 2010 at 02:55 PM in 2010 General Election, 2010 NM Governor's Race, Education, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (5)