Wednesday, September 30, 2009

State Investment Office pays for help on records

A big law firm is helping the State Investment Office with its records requests and subpoenas these days. The office hired the firm in 2005 for different reasons but recently expanded its contract to include help sorting through records requests. I explore the topic in a story today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gov. in Kuala Lumpur

Gov. Bill Richardson is off again, this time to a conference Kuala Lumpur.

His office said he was invited-- "along with 400 other CEO’s and world leaders" -- by Steve Forbes. As in the guy who edits Forbes magazine.

The conference's theme is “Game Change in Washington” and looks at "the political scene in Washington during the past 12 months amid economic downturn."

Among other things, Richardson's office says the governor will "share his thoughts about how the economic downturn has affected New Mexico."

I'm sure there are a few legislative leaders around here who would like to know a little more about Richardson's thoughts on New Mexico's economy as well. While they have been meeting with Richardson on the state's budget crisis, few have reported big progress ahead of the October special session.

The Malaysia trip comes after Richardson in recent weeks has been to both Mexico and Cuba. His office says Kuala Lumpur conference organizers are paying for Richardson's trip. There was no mention of security or other staffer costs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Smith: we need to cut $550 million

Seems like the true budget deficit number really is a moving target. Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said today lawmakers have a plan to cut $550 million from this year's state budget.

"As the branch of government with the responsibility to appropriate funds, the legislature must take a responsible and even more painful position on this budget crisis," Smith, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement.

That's a big jump from the $444 million Gov. Bill Richardson has proposed cutting.

According to the statement from budget negotiators who met today at the Capitol, "while the official revenue estimate pegs the shortfall at $433 million for the current fiscal year, Smith and other legislators believe the gap could grow to $550 million because corporate income and personal income tax collections as well as gross receipts tax collections continue to be lower than estimated earlier this year. Making less drastic spending cuts now will simply delay the inevitable and would make it more difficult for agencies to absorb subsequent budget cuts because less time remains in the fiscal year," the legislators said.

Stay tuned. Still no word on the date for the special session in which lawmakers are supposed to make these cuts. . .

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Armando Gutierrez had other state contracts

Read about them here.

The contracts were with former Attorney General Patsy Madrid's office and the departments of tourism and transportation.

Update, 12:32 p.m.
In a voice mail left for me last night, Madrid said she had no recollection of the contracts and said amendments to state contracts are very common.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Smart phones for state government a smart idea?

Some times one of the more fun things about writing a story for the newspaper is seeing the comments that are posted online afterward. Check out this story in today's paper about all the Blackberrys at the State Personnel Office. You can see the comments at the end. The debate about who all needs the phones raises some interesting questions.

Count on expenses such as state employee cell phones to be scrutinized during the upcoming special session.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Have a story about the Department of Workforce Solutions?

I'd like to hear it. Please email me at

You can read the latest story I've written about the department here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More problems at Workforce Solutions

About 5,000 unemployment insurance payments won't be posted until 1:30 p.m. today after a power surge at the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. The payments are usually available in the morning.

The department's computer system "experienced a power surge causing a power supply to fail on the main network switch overnight," according to a release sent to the media.

That switch controls access to the department's unemployment insurance system as well as its email, the release said.

The problem -- by far the first in recent days for the department -- was expected to be fixed by noon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Seven Democrat lt. gov. candidates to attend forum ... and other GOP candidate announces

If you want to get an early start on figuring out who is who in the Democratic primary race for lieutenant governor, you'll probably want to check out a Santa Fe forum this Wednesday.

Seven of the candidates for the post will be at the Santa Fe County Democratic Party monthly meeting from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the NEA Building, 2007 Botulph Road.

The meeting (expected to last about 5 minutes) and forum are free to the public.

According to Richard Ellenberg, chair of the county party, the candidates attending are Greg Solano, Linda Lopez, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Brian Colon, Tim Eichenberg, Lawrence Rael and Jose Campos.

Read this story I wrote for a little more on each candidate. Note that it's a little dated, as the field keeps changing.


One person not on the list is Bea Sheridan, a registered nurse and Republican who said Monday she's joining the race.

"Above all else, I’m running for lieutenant governor for the state of New Mexico because we are failing our children by remaining silent. I will be a leader for the future of our children so they will not inherit the mess we have created by our silence. I am no longer silent. I am no longer willing to sit by and let this state government ruin our children’s future," she said in a statement.

Sheridan in the statement describes herself as "a former business owner, author of two books on medicine, and currently is a registered nurse who runs the Pain Clinic at Lovelace Rehabilitation Hospital."

A resident of Albuquerque for 38 years, Sheridan has worked as "a youth minister, grief counselor, church lector, and volunteer in several community organizations and nonprofits."

The mother of three and grandmother of one also has served on the Bernalillo County Republican Party’s County Central Committee.

Former Gov. Bruce King remains in hospital

Bruce King, one of the state's most beloved characters, remains in an Albuquerque hospital today after doctors adjusted his pacemaker. More details here.

Every time I write about King or members of his family, I always get calls and emails from so many people who know him and worked for him and former first lady Alice King.

If you'd like to share your favorite King memories today, feel free to post them here or to e-mail me at

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.
King as of this morning "is reported to be alert, talking to family and anxious to return home to his ranch near Stanley," according to a spokesman.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Richardson to hold office hours on budget

Wanna tell the governor your thoughts on the budget proposals floating out there? Got a program you think should be saved in the upcoming special session to cut at least $400 million from the current fiscal year's spending?

You'll have two chances.

In Santa Fe, on Wednesday, Sept. 16, Richardson will meet with constituents in the Governor’s Office at the Capitol between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m. Sign up starts at noon.

In Albuquerque, the governor on Friday, Sept. 18 will meet with residents from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the CNM Workforce Training Center, 5600 Eagle Rock Avenue N.E.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to learn more about some of the programs that might be cut, a new alliance has launched a Facebook page that features new information each day for 20 days on how budget cuts would affect residents.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Maestas won't run for lt. gov.

Most of the political announcements lately have been from people announcing they are running for lieutenant governor. But Espanola Mayor Joe Maestas said today he won't run for the post.

“After much thought and consultation with my wife, family, friends, and supporters, I have decided not to enter the Democratic primary race for Lieutenant Governor,” Maestas said in a statement.

“As a native New Mexican and longtime public servant, I care deeply about our great state. The need for comprehensive ethics reform and fiscal responsibility in these unprecedented, uncertain, and turbulent times requires bold, experienced leadership at the highest levels of state government. Although I firmly feel that I possess that type of leadership, the time is simply not right for me to enter this race.”

That leaves eight people interested in the race on the Democratic side and two on the GOP side.

Condit cited in boat accident

Gov. Bill Richardson's chief of staff Brian Condit was cited over the weekend in the now famous boat incident at Elephant Butte. According to a report released by the state, Condit was behind the wheel when he tried to park an 80-foot house boat and damaged two other boats and two jet skis.

Richardson was on board during the incident, as was Department of Finance and Administration secretary Katherine Miller. Leon (Skip) Fay, the boat's owner, and Brenda Fay were also on the boat, as were two members of Richardson's security detail.

It appears Richardson didn't hang around for long, though. An eyewitnees told the New Mexico Independent that Richardson, Condit and Miller left the boat immediately after the accident.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

State spends $340,000 since July in Foy case

Meant to post this over the weekend when my Sunday story ran, but it looks like I forgot.

According to records I've looked at, legal costs are mounting in the Frank Foy vs. Vanderbilt case. By my tally, the state has spent $340,000 through July on the case.

There hasn't been much in the news about this case lately, but research shows lawyers are busy working on it.

J.R. Damron announces for Lt. Gov.

I suppose you could call it the post-Labor Day rush: two Republican men today joined the races for governor and lieutenant governor. Allen Weh announced in Albuquerque he wants to be governor and here in Santa Fe, J.R. Damron made official his bid for lieutenant governor.

Here's a little of what Damron, a Santa Fe radiologist, planned to say at his announcement, outside Santa Fe Imaging Center.

"I’ve watched the Richardson/Denish administration for the past seven years as it’s taken our state in the wrong direction. New Mexico’s public educational system has seriously declined; our ability to manage the social and economic needs of our citizens is suffering, and our state’s finances are in jeopardy because of some highly questionable investments," he said. "The governor and lt. governor have frankly taken their eye off the ball, creating an atmosphere of doubt in their ability to govern ethically and well. It’s not time for a change…it’s high time for a change in leadership,” Damron said.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tuesday brings two GOP faces to races

We've already reported that Allen Weh is set to announce his bid for governor on Tuesday. Turns out J.R. Damron also will announce Tuesday he's running for lieutenant governor.

Damron ran for governor in 2006 but dropped out after the primary election. A radiologist, he has practiced medicine since 1984. Health care will be a huge topic of his campaign, no doubt.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Vigil-Giron waives arraignment

Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron didn't appear in court this morning and waived her arraignment, the Associated Press reports here.

Vigil-Giron and three others were indicted last month.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Weh to announce for governor

Former GOP chairman Allen Weh to announce at UNM next Tuesday he's seeking the GOP nomination for governor in 2010.

Check it out:

Weh is the third Republican to announce his intentions, after Dona Ana District Attorney Susana Martinez and state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones.

Moore for Lt. Gov.

And I don't mean more candidates, I mean former state Rep. Brian Moore.

Moore, a Clayton businessman, is the first Republican to announce he's seeking the GOP nomination for the number two spot on the ticket in 2010.

"As a small businessman myself, I understand how challenging it is right now for people and small businesses all over the state," he said in a statement.

"After serving rural New Mexico for eight years in the New Mexico Legislature, I know how important it is to get out and listen to people who really understand the issues. I want to hear ideas on how New Mexico can be better and our how our state government can be more efficient and responsive," he said.

Other names out there on the Republican ticket -- unconfirmed but fun to speculate on -- are JR Damron, Darren White and Vickie Perea.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Richardson outlines budget cuts

Gov. Bill Richardson's office just sent out information on how he plans to cut the budget in the upcoming special legislative session.

The plan "reduces expenses and utilizes available funds totaling $444 million," according to his office.

Here are the plan's bullet points, as provided by Richardson's office.

"1. Agency Spending -- Cut budgets by 3-percent, excluding public schools, saving $100 million

2. Education Funding – Use $91 million in federal stimulus money to prevent cuts to public school spending for FY 2010.

3. Bonding Capacity -- Divert $135 million in available short-term bonding proceeds from future capital projects to operations.

4. Capital Outlay -- De-authorize between $60-$75 million in previously appropriated capital outlay projects – cancelling one-third of the Governor’s projects; one-third of the Senate projects; and one-third of the House projects.

5. Retirement Funds -- Delay General Fund increases to retirement and Retiree Health Care Authority funds – saving $21 million

6. Cash Balances -- Use $40 million in available money currently sitting in state agency treasurer and bank accounts, as well as special fund balances. Of that, $20 million will be withdrawn from the College Affordability Fund – with the intent to replace it in future years."

The governor presented the plan today to a group of legislators working to craft a spending plan ahead of the session. Some groups have called for public input into the pre-session process, but to my knowledge that hasn't happened.

Expect scrutiny and controversy on Richardson's plans to cut capital outlay, use cash balances and reduce agency spending by only three percent, lawmakers say. The Governor's Office, however, said agency cuts of more than three percent would likely result in layoffs and furloughs.

Already, the state yesterday told 27 workers at CYFD they would have to move or be laid off as the last juveniles kept at what was the Springer Boys' School were moved ahead of closing what remained of that facility. It was costing $1.8 million to keep the facility open, a CYFD spokeswoman said Monday.

State workers to lose jobs

Twenty seven state employees at CYFD were told yesterday they would have to leave Springer, where they work now, and move to Albuquerque or be laid off.

The move is the last step in closing what was left of the New Mexico Boys' School. It also has other state employees now worried about their jobs.

I guess we'll see what happens in the special session as lawmakers try to cut the budget without cutting more jobs.