« DPNM Requests Records of Time Spent by Darren White and Rob Perry on Susana Martinez Transition | Main | Gov. Bill Richardson: Billy the Kid Pardon Decision by Friday; No Additional Pardons or Commutations »

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Susana Martinez Nominates Out-of-Stater With Florida and Texas Ties to Head NM Human Services

Squier Apparently unable or unwilling once again to find a suitable candidate from New Mexico to fill a cabinet post, governor-elect Susana Martinez has nominated a person from out of state for Secretary of Human Services. Like Martinez's choice for Secretary of Public Education, the nominee has connections to Texas, Florida, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former President George W. Bush.

Right before the holidays, Martinez announced that she'll name Sidonie "Sydney" Squier, 53, to serve as New Mexico's next Secretary of Human Services, the state agency that oversees Medicaid spending. Current projections by outgoing Human Services Secretary Katie Falls estimate there'll be a $360 million Medicaid shortfall in the 2011 fiscal year due to the loss of federal stimulus money, increasing numbers of Medicaid enrollees and escalating health care costs.

Squier, who earned a bachelor's and master's degree in communications from California State University, Long Beach, has held health care posts within the Texas and Florida state governments. From what I can piece together, she served as associate commissioner in the Office of Family Services with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission when George Bush was governor, and as director of economic self-sufficiency and welfare reform administrator in the Florida Department of Children and Families during the Jeb Bush administration.

Squier also served as a director of the Office of Family Assistance at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from June 2005 to January 2009, during the Bush administration, where she was responsible for administering the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. In that role, she became Bush's go-to person on so-called marriage promotion, pushing the idea that married couples were being discriminated against in TANF, and that the TANF program should place increased emphasis on encouraging recipients to marry rather than on their getting an education. Squier assisted in the Bush administration's handing out of grants to "promote healthy marriages," and was also a supporter of Bush's "National Responsible Fatherhood Campaign." 

Squier presided over implementation of The Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005, which reauthorized the TANF block grant, and the development of HHS’s interim regulations for the legislation. Critics of the regulations said they significantly reduced states’ flexibility to design TANF programs that would meet the diverse needs of their low-income families.

In testimony before a House subcommittee about the Act, Squier discussed how the reauthorization replaced certain bonuses to the states with a fund for grants to promote "healthy marriages" and "responsible fatherhood" that would be made to neighborhood and community organizations, including religious groups. In addition, she said the new rules permitted states to extend certain "pro-family" benefits and services to anyone, without regard to financial need or family composition, "if the expenditure is to prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock births, or encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent married families."

Previously, in the late '90s, Squier was a deputy director and spokesperson for the California Department of Social Services. Prior to getting into the health care field, Squier was apparently some kind of public relations official with Greenbaum Public Relations of California. Her name appears as a contact person on a 1996 press release issued on behalf of Hillhaven Corporation, the operator of 40 nursing centers in California, which criticized a protest organized by union officials with SEIU against the nursing home chain. She's also listed as a contact on a 1995 Hillhaven press release critical of SEIU and unions.

According to a statement released by the Martinez camp, Squier "provides a valuable and unique perspective, having served at both the state and federal level. We face a significant budget deficit and both Sidonie and I are committed to ensuring that the safety net for needy families and children in New Mexico remains strong and in place."

December 29, 2010 at 03:16 PM in Healthcare, Susana Martinez | Permalink