Friday, October 30, 2009

World Is Ending Because of Legislature

Ok Ok, not really. But I halfway expect that to be the next headline from the Gov. Bill Richardson administration, given the releases that have come out so far this week. Each missive talks about the terrible impact that budget cuts approved by the Legislature would have on state government if Richardson were to sign them. In short, they are giant fingers of blame pointed directly at lawmakers.

Today brought the news that state parks would close and workers in that division would be furloughed because of the cuts. In some places, training for fire fighters and fire departments would be reduced, the department said.

On Tuesday, the administration said the plan would mean reductions in children's health care, nutrition programs for seniors and programs for the developmentally disabled, if the governor were to sign the measures.

On Wednesday, it said that going with lawmakers' decisions would mean closing two state prisons, releasing up to 660 prisoners and laying off or furloughing state workers.

And, on Thursday, statements issued by both the Long-Term Services Department and the Children, Youth and Families Department raised more concerns about the impact of budget cuts, saying they would mean "many more seniors will go hungry" and would "threaten the safety of children and families in every corner of the state," among other things.

The more the releases like this continue, the more talk there is that Richardson will veto the whole budget -- or at least the 7.6 percent cuts to state agencies. It's unclear where that would leave us. But many lawmakers I've talked to say they are sick of -- and can see through -- what they say are scare tactics by the administration.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

CDR faces charges

The Beverly Hills firm that was part of a federal investigation that made Gov. Bill Richardson drop his bid to be Commerce secretary was indicted Thursday for what prosecutors say was a bid-rigging scheme in the municipal bond business, the Associated Press is reporting. Two CDR firm executives also were indicted.

Read more here.

This is unrelated to the alleged pay to play case involving Richardson, the story says.

Richardson tallies public input on budget

Gov. Bill Richardson's office has posted a tally of common comments it has received on the state budget cuts approved by the Legislature.

If Richardson takes the input to heart, it looks like he won't cut Medicaid, but he will raise taxes. He would also avoid cutting state agencies by 7.6 percent and wouldn't cut education.

That sounds like a whole new special session in the making. . . it also sounds a lot like what many lawmakers said ought to have happened in the session that ended last week.

Here's a look at what the administration posted on its blog:

"Medicaid Cuts: 171 emails against cuts to Medicaid programs

7.6% Agency Cuts: 221 con / 5 pro

Tax Increases (variety of ideas): 38 pro / 2 con

Education Cuts: 40 con / 13 pro"

The governor has until Nov. 12 to act. His office has said he plans additional office hours for people to comment on the budget.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Corrections Department: two prisons could close, inmates could be released due to budget cuts

The New Mexico Corrections Department says it could be forced to close two prisons and give early releases to as many as 660 inmates, if Gov. Bill Richardson were to sign the budget cuts passed by the Legislature last week.

Cuts in the department amount to $21 million, officials said in a release.

"This is a hard pill to swallow, but we don’t have any other choice. When I met with Governor Richardson yesterday, I told him that closing prisons is the only way we can significantly reduce our budget,” Secretary of Corrections Joe R. Williams said in a statement.

The department says it would have to close the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility in Grants and the Roswell Correctional Center in Hagerman if the cuts stand.

Even if it took those actions, along with other cost-savings initiatives, the department still would be about $2 million short of the $21 million in cuts, it said. To make up the difference, employee furloughs "would have to be considered."

Whether Richardson allows these cuts to go through or vetoes them remains to be seen. He has until Nov. 12 to act.

Richardson-Legislature relations sour

I thought it was bad between many lawmakers and Gov. Bill Richardson when I wrote this story yesterday afternoon about the ongoing swipes over the budget.

Then I read the governor's blog this morning.
In it, Richardson -- or presumably his writers -- calls lawmakers "overzealous" and talks about their "attempted power grab."

It's interesting to think back about how the relationship has evolved during Richardson's term. In 2003, such a situation seemed unimaginable. But then again, so did our budget crisis...

If it continues like this, don't be surprised to see Richardson veto good portions of the budget -- and for lawmakers to consider veto overrides without a second thought.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

HSD: $153 million in budget cuts would have 'devastating impact'

Like all state agencies, the New Mexico Human Services Department is reviewing the cuts made by lawmakers in last week's special session. HSD said in a release just now that it is "bracing for $153 million in cuts to critical services for New Mexicans."

The department says that the budget bill, if signed by the governor, would slash services such as children’s health care, behavioral health care, health care for developmentally disabled individuals, medically fragile and those with HIV/AIDS and nutrition assistance for seniors.

"These services are critical for New Mexico’s low-income residents,” said Katie Falls, Human Services Department acting secretary. "Cuts to these programs can result in devastating consequences for New Mexico’s most vulnerable population."

Not all that money is a cut from the state's general fund, however. The department says: "In all, the department is anticipating a $37.6 million state general fund cut to department’s budget. Cuts in state funding will also result in a loss of $115.5 million in federal matching funds for a total of $153.2 million in cuts to the Human Services Department budget."

To reduce the impact to state programs, the 7.6 percent budget cut "could result in as many as 15 full days of furloughs for Human Services Department staff and/or layoffs," the release said.

The details are the first provided by the Richardson administration about the cuts. The governor has until Nov. 12 to act.

No details yet on critcal service cuts

Gov. Bill Richardson sounded a warning yesterday that critical services would be cut by the Legislature-approved budget plan. However, there are no details yet on where those cuts would come, causing some to wonder how severe the cuts may end up being.

Richardson's office is digging through the budget bill today as it accepts public input on the cuts. The office apparently also will be busy taking media calls, as attempts by this reporter to contact agency spokespeople yesterday were all routed through Richardson's Office.

I mention that because the Governor's Office in this blog post criticizes reporters for not doing a good job covering the budget situation. That's an interesting accusation to make when -- in contacting 12 public information officers Monday about the budget -- all I got were referrals back to the Governor's Office, which couldn't provide any detailed answers to my questions.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Richardson says critical services 'will be cut,' wants to hear from public

Gov. Bill Richardson wants public input on the budget bills the Legislature approved last week before he acts.

He said in a statement that critical services "will be cut."

"While the Legislature made minimal cuts to education, legislators targeted state agencies under the control of the Governor for the most drastic cuts. That means critical services will be cut. For example, while legislators claimed to have protected Medicaid funding, critical programs such as behavioral health care, children’s healthcare and programs for the elderly were not spared," he said.

Richardson has 20 days to act.

You can email or call 505-476-2210.

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Mexico PED administration bigger than others

As the Legislature debated school funding this session, I thought it would be interesting to look at how the number and salaries of the state's Public Education Department compares to others.

I found that while two other states pay their top administrator more than we pay Secretary Veronica Garcia, Utah, Idaho, Kansas and Nebraska all have fewer administrators (called different things in different states) than we do.

Read the story I wrote here. I also did a comparison chart here of salary information.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

State unemployment rate 7.7 percent in September, won't rise much because of session

While the September seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 7.7 and has done nothing but climb this year, don't expect it to go up after the Legislature is done with the special session. Budget bills on their way through don't contain layoffs for state employees, as many feared at the start of the session on Saturday.

Two other bills, however, would leave some exempt employees out of work in January, if approved. But time is running out for that topic. Were they saber rattling or will lawmakers in January again consider cutting expensive political appointees?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

State investment officer Gary Bland resigns

The head of the State Investment Council resigned this afternoon, a spokesman just confirmed.

In recent months, Gary Bland has been dogged by this lawsuit, (in which he is named) among other things, but hasn't issued a public statement yet on why he's leaving.

New Mexico spent $220,123 between March and July on lawyers to defend the state on the lawsuit over an alleged pay-to-play scheme, known as Foy v. Vanderbilt, according to records obtained by The New Mexican. That's in addition to $119,680 spent on the case in January and February.

Bland's resignation comes as other financial scandals abound.

Bland's resignation letter says he's "saddened and disappointed" to tender his resignation, effective immediately, but doesn't say why.

A Gov. Bill Richardson spokesman said the governor has accepted the resignation.

"Governor Richardson has accepted Gary Bland's resignation and thanks him for his service to New Mexico. The governor will start the process to name a successor to run the State Investment Office," Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.

The announcement comes as the investment council this afternoon posted a notice about an emergency meeting for tomorrow, but later cancelled it.

So how bad is the budget situation?

I've used numbers and percents and figures and all that to explain the state's budget crisis. But I just had it explained to me in a way that might make it a little easier to understand. (At least it's funnier than any figure I've used so far.)

House Minority Whip Keith Gardner put it to me like this, explaining that the state is pretty much out of one-time money that can help solve the budget crisis temporarily.

"The problem now is we’re out of one-time monies," he said. "(House Minority Leader) Tom Taylor suggested we go and take out title loans on all the state cars. We’re to the point where we have to sell our mother's heirloom wedding ring, because there's no where else to grab cash."

Well, that's one way of putting it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Quote of the day

One of the more fun parts of covering the Legislature is finding a quote of the day. As it's a special session, we aren't featuring that in the paper these days, but I did just hear something that would fit in that category.

During debate on the Senate floor, Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings asked Lt. Gov. Diane Denish to send a message to Richardson chief of staff Brian Condit about the strict way many say the governor's proclamation for the session was written.

"He does these proclamations about as well as he does driving a boat," he said, referring to a boating incident in which Condit was cited.

"Mr. Condit ought to look at . . . how he writes these proclamations, otherwise we wouldn't be having these conversations," Jennings said.

The quote came after the Senate debated the germane-ness of several bills including ones that would raise taxes on the wealthy, on alcohol and out of state corporations. Several senators this session have suggested Richardson overstepped his bounds by setting such a limited proclamation that excludes those kind of bills.

The measures were ruled not germane.

Eliminating exempt employees gaining steam least based on the number of calls on my voicemail this morning from classified employees who say the practice has gotten out of hand.

On Monday, and without knowing what the other was doing, both Rep. Nate Cote and Sen. John Ryan introduced bills limiting the number of exempts. Cote's bill is here. Ryan's isn't posted yet. Cote's measure reduces the number by 180, Ryan's limits the number to 220.

It's unclear how far those bills could make it, but the issue has traction and is sure to be much talked about. Gov. Bill Richardson's office, when asked for comment on Cote's bill, declined, saying it was "based on bad information."

See my story in today's paper here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bill would limit exempt employees

One of the more interesting measures I heard introduced today in the House was a bill by Rep. Nate Cote that would the number of limit exempt employees who make more than $50,000.

The bill could mean big savings at a time it's most needed: Cote said axing at least 180 exempt jobs from the budget would save $8.1 million for the rest of this year and twice that in the next fiscal year.

"Under the current fiscal conditions, all state expenditures must be analyzed and none excluded," Cote said in a statement. "I’ve noticed significant growth in the number of exempt positions in the last several years and the incumbents of which could be placed into permanent classified positions . . . I feel the state government has grown too large for the revenue available in the state of New Mexico,” he said.

That's a hot topic, so expect fireworks as the bill makes it through the process. (IF it makes it through the process...deciding whether it's germane should be an interesting time.) I'll link to the bill as soon as it's available.

Cote said in a release that the number of exempt employees rose by 27 positions from 789 to 816 under the Richardson administration, but the number of state classified employees has stayed the same.

Meanwhile, see this link for a list of what's been introduced so far, although you should give it a little time to be updated.

The House is out until 1 p.m. Tuesday. Senate still in session. They are having a discussion with Department of Finance and Administration Cabinet Secretary Katherine Miller on the outlook of the state's finances. Oddly enough, the discussion is now centered on exempt salaries. . . Listen here.

UPDATE, 5:28
After a lengthy discsussion on everything from waiting lists for services to the developmentally disabled to exempt government positions to education funding, the Senate just recessed until 11 a.m. Tuesday. There is, however, a Democratic caucus before that. So I wouldn't bet on the Senate starting exactly at 11. . .

Session might be quicker than you think

No one really wants to hang around the Roundhouse too long these days, given the swine flu threat and the fact that axing $660 million from the state's budget isn't the most pleasant of tasks.

But there's another reason some lawmakers are already itching to leave: those running for office can't raise money while the Legislature is in session. The Secretary of State's Office recently sent out this reminder to candidates. The note also says candidates should take down all campaign signs and literature.

With several lawmakers running in races where they need to do a lot of fund raising -- lieutenant governor in particular -- you can bet this won't be the longest special session we've had.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Session underway . . . sort of.

(Scroll down for latest updates.)

Really not much official to report yet. But things are rolling in the House and Senate. Roll call, reading of the proclamation, etc. Formalities mostly. A memorial or two.

The Governor's Office hasn't released the proclamation yet, but it sounds like Richardson's plan is to not cut salaries and not allow any tax increases the session.

Sen. Michael Sanchez just said he doesn't expect any legislation to be discussed today and "if that comes, it would come in a day or two."

Sounds like the bills that have been introduced so far will go to the Committees' Committee Sunday at 1 p.m.. That's where it's decided if they are germane to the session.

Sanchez is apologizing to audience members who have been waiting around for something to happen today.

"I want to apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused you...we're working the best we can to resolve a very serious situation in the state," he said.

UPDATE, 4:06
House is adjourned until tomorrow. I'm going downstairs to look into what they've done, as I've been in the Senate so far today.

Sounds like the Senate is also getting to wrap up until tomorrow. .

UPDATE, 4:33

Senate still in session. They are arguing about what is germane, what isn't. Talk of an extraordinary session.

In the meantime, the Governor's Office finally put out some info on the budget. It avoids layoffs and furloughs and cuts education by 1.5 percent. It also states tax increases won't be considered. Here are the details as released.

"We are able to minimize education cuts and protect classroom spending as a result of our aggressive efforts in the past to keep cash reserves at 10 percent or higher,” Richardson said in a statement. "The governor’s $617 million plan relies partially on those rainy-day reserves to protect schools, while still keeping future cash reserves at a prudent 5.5 percent. The plan is as follows:

· Cut Agency Spending by 3.5 %
· Cut Education Spending by 1.5%. Cuts must include safeguards that classrooms, kids and teachers will not be affected.
· Use federal stimulus money to prevent further cuts to education
· Divert available short-term bonding proceeds from future capital projects to reimburse general fund for existing capital expenditures
· Deauthorize stalled capital outlay projects; cancelling the Governor’s projects as well as those of lawmakers
· Delay General Fund increases to retirement and Retiree Health Care Authority funds
· Sweeping state accounts of unspent money

UPDATE, 4:44 p.m.
Senate is adjourned until 2:30 Sunday. Committees' Committee meets at 1 p.m.

Here's Richardson's proclamation.

Special Session Proclamation

Denish: 'don't delay'

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who spent the morning meeting with legislative leaders and the governor, is urging them to not delay on key cuts that need to be made to the budget.

"I urged them to make necessary long-term structural changes. I also encouraged legislators to keep all options on the table and close as much of the budget shortfall during this session as possible. My message was “Don’t delay."

So far, they don't appear to be taking that to heart. As of 2:16, neither chamber is meeting for the 2 p.m. session.

Denish, who is running for governor in 2010, put out a statement saying she's "fundamentally opposed to any cuts that will affect New Mexico’s classrooms. Making sure that our children have the skills needed to compete for 21st Century jobs is one of the most important stimulants to the state’s economic future. Taking money out of our classrooms would only be to our own economic detriment."

UPDATE, 2:18 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, just let everyone in the audience of the Senate know that the session hasn't started because lawmakers haven't received the session's proclamation from the governor. (That's the little thing that spells out what lawmakers will be doing this session.)

UPDATE, 2:26 p.m.

Sanchez now is announcing the session won't start until 3:00 p.m. The proclamation isn't done, apparently. . .

Friday, October 16, 2009

Richardson to move session back

...until 2 p.m. Saturday.

The extra two hours will give Gov. Bill Richardson time to present a budget counter proposal to lawmakers. It might give the rest of us time to get in a decent lunch before the mayhem.

"Governor Richardson had a productive meeting with legislative leaders and discussed their latest budget proposal," Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Richardson, said in a statement. "Governor Richardson will present a counter-proposal to legislators on Saturday before the start of the special session."

I talked to lawmakers who just now met with Richardson and they said they expected something sooner than tomorrow from the governor. Their chief complaint was that they last week gave Richardson three budget proposals and he hadn't said anything about a counter offer until now.

One source said Richardson's proposal wouldn't cut state workers' salaries, a key concern many have rallied around. The source also said the proposal doesn't raise taxes but does cut from K-12 schools -- something Richardson had pledged not to do. When I have firm details on the plan, I will let you know.

The unusual move of changing the time could mean several things, none of which point to consensus between the branches. Stay tuned. I'll be blogging from the Capitol Saturday.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Richardson to talk special session on PBS Friday night

It's hard to get an interview these days with Gov. Bill Richardson. In fact, I believe it has been months (many many months) since Richardson has sat done with any of us lowly local media types.

So kudos to Lorene Mills of Report from Santa Fe, who got the governor to sit down for an interview that will air Friday night at 10:30 on KNME-TV, Channel 5.1.

Richardson apparently waxes poetic on the budget, and in particular on what he's willing -- and not willing -- to cut in the session that starts Saturday. Sounds like required watching as all of you Roundhouse-goers prepare for what's coming in the days ahead.

The interview comes as Mills' show is changing its broadcast times. (Which I've got to say is great, as the show was on waaaay too early before.)

The interview program, which features a variety of political and cultural guests, will now air on Friday nights at 10:30 p.m. for Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico viewers on KNME-TV, Channel 5.1 and on Saturday at 6 p.m. for eastern New Mexico viewers on KENW-TV, Channel 3.

It will also be shown on Sunday mornings at 7:30 a.m. for Albuquerque, Santa Fe and northern New Mexico viewers on Channel 5.1 and at 8:30 a.m. for viewers in Las Cruces and southern New Mexico, on KRWG-TV, Channel 22.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Budget shortfall is $650 million

It's been a moving target, but forcasters said today that the state's projected deficit is $650 million.

That figure really isn't too different from the latest we've been hearing from some on the Senate Finance Committee, but it gives lawmakers in the session that starts Saturday something firm to work with.

Whether it means schools won't be cut, or Medicaid won't suffer or state employee salaries won't be reduced remains to be seen. It probably doesn't dramatically change the path lawmakers have to go down in the coming weeks to balance the budget, because several leaders had been predicting the shortfall would be this high.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Denish raises a million this reporting period, Colon raises $264,000

(Scroll down for the most recent numbers from other candidates)

According to her campaign, gubernatorial candidate Diane Denish raised a million bucks between early May and early October, and has $2.2 million on hand. That's likely to be the most raised by the candidates running in 2010, but we'll keep you updated as other reports come in today.

While she may have the biggest bank, the quickest candidate today was lieutenant governor candidate Greg Solano, who has already emailed in his report. (He raised $11,865.) Other candidates: please do the same and send your reports directly to us, so that we can finish our stories with your numbers in time for tomorrow's paper. (It's unclear how soon it will be before the Secretary of State's web site is updated with the reports.)

UPDATE, 1:36 p.m.

Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Lawrence Rael says he's raised $127,000, including a $15,000 loan to himself. and GOP gubernatorial candidate Allen Weh said he pulled in more than $559,000, including a $250,000 loan from himself.

NOTE: all of the numbers I have so far came from the candidates' campaigns, not the Secretary of State's web site. I still don't see where these reports are going to be filed. Can anyone help me? (I haven't received a response from the SOS's office yet.)

UPDATE, 2:13 p.m.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Turner just emailed that he's raised. $255,852, which includes a loan of $243,552.

UPDATE, 2:30

Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino says he raised $22,000, including a $3,700 loan from himself.

UPDATE, 2:58 p.m.

The Secretary of State's Office just emailed two links for finding information on today's filings. They are here and here. Best I can tell, however, they are not completely up to date, as I typed in two candidates I know have filed already, and they are not listed.

UPDATE, 3:04 p.m.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Susanna Martinez raised $141,265, according to her campaign. Her press release doesn't include her full report, but says she has $130,658 on hand.

UPDATE, 3:26 p.m.

(Anyone interested in interning for me? I've got a great little campaign finance database project for you to work on. . .)

UPDATE, 4:10 p.m.

State Rep. Jose Campos, a Democrat running for lieutenant governor, has filed his report. He raised $148,368, including $100,000 in loans. (Those loans, however, are not listed on Campos' cover page, just on the inside of his report.)

UPDATE, 4:40 p.m.

Former chairman of the state Democratic Party Brian Colon says he raised $264,203 in cash, with no loans. So far, Colon, seeking the lieutenant governor spot, is the lead fund raiser for that post.

Update, 5:00 p.m.

GOP candidate J.R. Damron for lieutenant governor said he raised $3,500. That total includes a $500 contribution from himself and a $3,000 loan to himself, he said.

UPDATE, 5:29

Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, a GOP candidate for governor, reports she raised $20,945. Former state Rep. Brian Moore says he collected $4,500 this period.

Meanwhile, the new Democratic state party Chairman, Javier Gonzales, just pointed out that Denish has raised more than all the GOP candidates combined. . .

I better get finished writing a story for the newspaper tomorrow so I can meet my deadline. More updates later as warranted.

Today is filing day...and SOS website still confusing as heck

Today looks like a filing day for candidates seeking office in 2010. (Although I've got to say, I don't see that information listed in the 2010 candidates' guide posted here on the Secretary of State's web site.)

I do, however, see the date listed in another, separate part of the web site right here, so it seems true.

Wanting to get a head start on the days work and see if anyone has posted anything yet, I looked right here on the site, where I would guess the 2010 campaign finance reports should be. Nothing points me in the direction of 2010 campaign reports. But it is only 9 a.m.

You can, however, find an incredibly confusing and frustrating list of options.

Yep, your choices are to look at "2006/2007 candidate campaign reports not filed electronically, 2008/2009 candidate campaign reports not filed electronically, 2009 biannual campaign reports not filed electronically, filed electronically and submitted on Excel spreadsheet, reports that are "filed electronically and contribution search - all years campaign reports" or to search "prior year candidate & PAC reports." (Prior year to what, I've got to ask.)

So maybe today's reports will be listed under the 2009 section, as this is 2009. (But the elections are in 2010.) So then would I look under reports filed electronically or not? Would I look under "all years campaign reports?" Guess I won't know until some of the filings start showing up. Again, that's something that should be very clear and isn't.

I'm no computer expert here, but it seems simple enough to have one data base of campaign finance reports, not this confusing and meaningless list of choices. How would a voter know if a candidate filed electronically or not? How would a reporter know if a candidate filed on an Excel sheet? In short, we don't know those kinds of things and shouldn't have to to find the public information we are seeking.

Problems with and the inadequacy of the Secretary of State's web site have persisted for years.

When will it change?

Monday, October 12, 2009

What is Richardson's fiscal legacy?

I posed that question for this weekend story.

Not surprisingly, many said Richardson's legacy might be the big-ticket items like the Railrunner, but might also be in what he's got to cut as the state struggles with its financial crisis. Lawmakers on Friday gave him three spending scenarios. Stay tuned to see if he reacts to any of them.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Jennings releases three budget ideas

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings has released three ideas on helping the state climb out of its budget hole. They aren't recommendations per se, but rather three scenarios for Gov. Bill Richardson to consider. Jennings, D-Roswell, called all of them "painful."

Among them :

-- Cut education spending by 3.5 percent and salaries for state employees by 2.5 percent.
-- Cut state agencies, higher education and schools by almost five percent.
-- Not cut education spending or Medicaid, but reduce everything else in state government by about 16 percent.

More details are here.

The news comes as more than 2,000 people are rallying outside the state Capitol against education cuts and for the repeal of tax cuts for wealthy New Mexicans. All of this is ahead of the Oct. 17 special session in which lawmakers need to cut at least $400 million from this year's spending. The total amount to be cut could reach as high as $700 million, some legislators have said. New revenue projections are expected out next week.

UPDATE, 2:26 p.m.

The ideas didn't seem to sway Richardson.

"Governor Richardson continues to stand with New Mexico's teachers and kids to resist harmful cuts to classroom spending. The governor has provided guidance to lawmakers and ultimately, the entire Legislature must work together to reach a consensus and deliver a fiscally responsible budget," a statement from his office said.

Some budget info due out today

Some lawmakers in the Senate plan to release their spending plan later today. The plan is a counterproposal to what Gov. Bill Richardson is pitching.

Sources say the plan would hold education harmless only if other programs for the developmentally disabled and those on Medicaid are also not cut.

But it looks like another plan coming out of the House would cut school spending by about three percent. Read this story for what House Speaker Ben Lujan had to say about it last night. At the same time, he also said state employee salaries could be cut by 2.5 percent, according to the story.

Today is also the day for a giant rally at the Capitol against education cuts and for rolling back tax cuts.

All of this comes a week ahead of the special session set to start next Saturday.

Details later.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Adam Kokesh to host Twown Hall

I know it looks like I can't spell, but turns out Adam Kokesh is holding a twown hall Oct. 19. (That's a Twitter town hall, ya'll.)

Here's how it works:

Kokesh, a Republican running for the 3rd Congressional District, will respond to questions in real time using his twitter account.

Twitter users can tweet questions to Kokesh before and/or during the event, which is from 5:30-6:30 p.m.
The campaign says Twitter users should post an update using "@AdamKokesh" somewhere in the message. There also is a hashtag for the Kokesh campaign, #k4c, if you want to search all the questions that will be asked.

Andrew Sharp, the campaign's communications director, said the campaign wants to tap into the Twitter community.

"Twitter is revolutionizing communication, from the way news is reported to how friends stay in touch. Since the world first witnessed the power of twitter during the elections in Iran, more and more people are beginning to think twice about dismissing it," he said in a statement. "Especially for those in the field of public service, utilizing new methods of communication like Twitter to stay connected will become increasingly vital in the future. That's why we've decided to host this event."

Kokesh, who announced his campaign in July, has started strong with fundraising, most of it on the Internet. Read the story I did on that for today's paper here.

He is seeking the GOP nomination in the race against U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. The election is Nov. 2, 2010.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

R.J. Berry joins mayor's club in Santa Fe

Even though he appears to be the new mayor of Albuquerque, Rep. R.J. Berry joins Rep. Jose Campos, the mayor of Santa Rosa, in a small group in Santa Fe of state lawmakers with experience heading cities.

House Minority whip Tom Taylor is in that club, too, sort of. He's a former mayor of Farmington. And, former Rep. Tom Swisstack is now the mayor of Rio Rancho.

Any of tonight's winners would have been in the club, though; Berry's opponents in the mayoral race are also both former state lawmakers, Richard Romero from Downtown and Marty Chavez from the West Side.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Special session starts Sat. Oct. 17

A special session of the Legislature will start Sat. Oct. 17 at noon, Gov. Bill Richardson just announced.

"After meeting with education leaders, I am more convinced than ever that we must fight against attempts to cut school spending," the governor said in a statement. "The superintendents reiterated their strong opposition to drastic cuts that some legislators have proposed.”

Richardson has proposed cuts to every state agency except public schools by 3 percent; several lawmakers says there’s no way to avoid cuts to public schools.

Estimates say the state needs to cut at least $400 million from the current spending plan. Richardson has proposed $444 million in cuts, but some lawmakers say the budget shortfall could go as high as $550 million.

Legislators are expected to unveil their spending plan later this week. Cuts to education are expected to be a major battleground, and educators and members of the teacher's union on Friday will hold a rally at the Capitol.

The session will be limited to budget matters.

Richardson, who earlier said the session would last just one day, seems to have given up on that idea.
“The length of the session will be dependent on how long it takes to reach a consensus on the budget,” he said.

Anyone placing bets on how long that will be?

Adam Kokesh raises $100,000

That's according to preliminary figures from the Kokesh campaign.

Kokesh is the Republican running against U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan. I haven't gone back and looked yet, but that sticks out as a large amount for a Republican in the 3rd Congressional District this early in the race. . .

More details later today.