Wednesday, December 30, 2009
It's no mystery how we got here: Big increases in state spending, $700 million in tax cuts since 2002 (largely to the highest income earners), "economic development" perks of dubious public benefit, and questionable deals made in a "pay to play" political culture. All of this was financed by a bubble in natural gas severance tax revenue that is unlikely to return, and financial market shenanigans that fueled a bloated economy.
Tired posturing about indispensable government programs or no new taxes will not solve our problems. A combination of immediate measures and long term policy shifts can. Successful businesses use tough times to reinvent themselves. That is exactly what New Mexico State government needs to do. It's painful, but it sure beats the alternative. Let's not waste this crisis.
Here are some ideas for moving forward this next legislative session.
Reducing Government Spending
It's human nature to get sloppy about spending when there's lots of money around. The first step back to financial stability is controlling spending. The Governor has created a citizen panel to review potential tax increases; we should do the same to address potential budget cuts.
There has been much discussion about "across the board" cuts to "share the pain". This will only result in across the board mediocrity. Large bureaucracies tend to create new programs to solve each newly identified problem. Real solutions often lie in better delivery of core services rather than layers of new initiatives. Marginal and underfunded programs should be dropped as we refocus on more effective delivery of basic services.
Our public school classrooms are a perfect microcosm of this phenomenon. Between overcooked federal and state testing mandates, documentation-heavy programs to help struggling students, and a bevy of "flavor of the month" programs, it is widely acknowledged that teachers no longer have enough time to actually teach. By streamlining and eliminating mandates while maintaining accountability we can improve instruction and save money at the same time.
Policy adjustments can also significantly reduce spending. It costs upward of $30,000 annually to house a prisoner in a state corrections institution. Taxpayers are punished as much as criminals every time we send someone to jail. Though we call them corrections institutions, the overwhelming evidence is that prisons are far more adept at teaching criminal behavior than correcting it. Do we really benefit by sending non-violent first time offenders to jail? Alternative forms of punishment not only save money, but promise fewer career criminals in our future.
Now might also be a good time to review the state procurement code. Many complain that it often adds significantly to cost. I don't pretend to know one way or the other, but given the claimed level of waste, review and possible adjustment of the procurement code seems reasonable.
Legislators face many proposals for tax breaks for narrow interest groups every year. Far too many are approved and never reviewed again. More taxes are exempted in tax credits and deductions than is actually collected in state income and gross receipt taxes each year. The result is a tax system where tax break losers subsidize tax break winners.
We do not need to raise tax rates to increase revenues. We need only eliminate tax breaks that serve no broad public purpose. Is it really appropriate that New Mexico auto sales excise taxes are only about half as much as gross receipt taxes on other products? Other states don't give this tax break. Forty eight states have implemented "consolidated reporting" policies to prevent national corporations from avoiding local state taxes through accounting tricks. New Mexico has not. Correcting just these two inequities would increase revenues an estimated $60 to $100 million annually.
Legislation that requires annual review of tax breaks, and that imposes sunset clauses on all narrow tax and economic incentives deserves our support.
Curtailing Pay to Play
The impact of pay to play is much bigger than the criminal violations we regularly see in the news. Technically legal transactions that violate the public trust probably cost us far more than illegal activity. Giveaway deals by the State Land Office, subsidies that give (not loan) hundreds of thousands of dollars to private speculators for every acre of private lots they create, and film incentives that give a cash rebate of $.25 for every dollar production companies spend in New Mexico will cost well over $100 million this year. Total costs are much higher and are impossible to measure.
If we abhor pay to play as much as we let on, we should change the laws that encourage it. Contractors working for the state, and companies seeking publicly funded subsidies or tax breaks should be prohibited from making political contributions. There is no hope of curtailing corruption if we're too faint hearted to make it illegal. Legislation that addresses these "ethics" issues may well save taxpayers more money over the long term than any other change we implement.
By State Senator Steve Fischmann
Note: I may not agree with all of Steve Fischmann's suggestions but we should listen to him and the other state senators in order to find ways to cut the state budget without harming important programs. My favorite suggestion for education is targeted cuts to large over paid administrations.
Steve sent this out in the hopes of getting people to talk and make suggestions that will help cut the budget in smart new ways. I would suggest that voters contact him and other state senators if they know of ways to cut waste without harming programs and services to the public.
Feedback and new ideas are a very important part of the process when cutting the state budget.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I have to wonder exactly how hard city unions want to push this matter when their contracts could be next on the chopping block if Berry can find away to get around a contract signed by Chavez. This does raise an interesting issue. Can one mayor sign a contract that runs into another mayor’s term and if not then how can unions sign long term contracts? Should elected officials be allowed to enter into long term contract with city employees that ensure a salary level for them? Where exactly does city council fit into this picture?
Berry who is now looking at red light cameras may be looking at raising the cost of other city service fees so as to pay for his cuts that would only benefit republicans in the northeast heights part of the city. When Berry ran on cutting city cost he did not bother to explain to voters that he would also raise cost to middle class city residents.
Why is Darren White expressing any type of view publicly when it comes to city employee's salaries? Who died and made him mayor? God help us all!
Sunday, December 27, 2009
We can go back and review all the campaign promises in the world that are on tape but the simple truth of the matter is that the president feels his judgment is more important then what the voters want out of our government. He has clearly stated that the public option for healthcare was never a major deal breaker for him. It was never about what we wanted but about what he wants that counts in the federal government and he will tell the American people as many lies as he has to in order to get his way on this issue.
The question is will there ever be a time when Main Street takes a front row position to the needs and the wants of Wall Street? The answer is no! Not as long as large corporations are allowed to pour large sums of money into campaigns. Main Street voters will get second place and the bill for first place.
Winning at all cost has made losers of the American voting public. Campaign reform should be voted on by the people and not left to the politicians who directly benefit from money given by large corporations who out right buy their votes and influence over our political process.
It will take an outraged public to demand a public vote on this issue and until the American Voting Public is willing to fill the streets and demand a public vote on this issue it will be business as usual in Washington. We should simple stop believing in open and honest government because the special interest and lobbyists will find a dark spot to pull our elected officials into in order to buy their vote and their influence which should only be used to improve the lives of the American people.
President Obama is a sad disappointment and the progressive movement should do all they can in the future to remove him for office. His links to big business are way to open and his choice in administration has made it clear that they will not take any responsible for their failures when it comes to public service.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Now as President Obama has proven as of late that principle does not always hold true. Once elected it is up to the elected official to hold true to his or her promise and core values to work in the best interest of the voters that elected that individual.
Today major corporations are spending large amounts of money to overcome an elected official’s desire to work for the American Voters. They convince elected officials that with time and money elected officials can get away with anything as long as the advertising agents have enough time to spend it in the desired context. They go around explaining that the American people are un-educated or undereducated and that the vote is simply a popularity contest that will be given over to the richest candidate who has the best advertising.
In some areas they are right because we have failed as a country to give voters the information to make educated decisions when it comes to their own government. The Republican Party truly believes that it is a good thing to have uneducated voters who can be taken advantage of for their advancement. The Republican Party has convinced the American people that politics is a dirty word and that they should have noting to do with the people who run our country or our state. Some American don’t even understand that elected officials are answerable to them and are not better then anyone they represent.
I have heard a Appeals Court Judge express her views and that she should be appointed for live so that she is not answerable to any voters because it might just have an effect on how she would rule. So if the people have no pressure on our government then how on earth can we call it a country that is of the people, for the people and by the people.
Laws are created by people not god and are not always perfect. Much is left up to interpretation so it comes down to a judge’s best judgment that is in the best interest of the people as a whole. We don’t want people in any elected position who feel they are better then the people they represent in government at any level. It is up to our elected officials to make every effort to make sure that they get out and educated voters on the issues and on why they would best represent voters interest and not just the views of the rich or the powerful in this country.
I truly believe as our founding fathers did that if we want a good honest country that has the capacity to work for it people that people who work for the government should be elected by the people and not appointed by the powerful.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
New judges are faced with the difficult task of hearing a great number of cases due to the limited resources provided our local court system. We all know that the Second District Court could use another 10 judges just to provide the services that a population the size of Bernalillo County requires but due to budget limitations the state at this time cannot afford to provide those judges for public safety.
We are now looking at four new judges who will face a partisan election come 2010 so I feel that the public should be provided with as much information about our new judges as we can give them.
Today I visited the courtroom of Judge Alan Malott who appears to thrive on the challenges thrown his way by our current court system. He is respectful to all involved in the process and acts thrilled to be providing a quality service to the public. His temperament is one of claim respect and thoughtful contemplation of the facts put forth by the lawyers in his courtroom. He is a hard judge to anger and works hard to strike a fair balance between all parties concerned in a case.
The case I saw today was a short one due to the fact that the individual being sued was a ex-DA who did not feel the need even to show up for the hearing. The judge pointed out that the case was in its fifth year and that there was most likely little hope of any financial award due to the fact that the individual in question had allegedly admitted to the other lawyer that he had not filed a tax return in the last eight years and at current was living off his mother. An order to show cause was issued in the case and it was clear that if this ex-DA did not make an appearance that he would be faced with jail time for his lack of respect for the system he had once worked for in this state. One does have to wonder what would cause such a change in someones behavior in the first place.
The lawyer present at the hearing was an older gentlemen who just could not bring himself to understand how a younger lawyer could behave in such a poor and disrespectful manner toward our court system. He was clearly upset and angered by this defendants behavior both towards himself and the courts.
This case is just one example of what faces our new judges on a daily bases but there are a few bright moments in a judges day. The next act was for Judge Malott to marry a couple a military gentleman in his dress uniform and his beautiful young blonde bride.
I saw the happy couple kissing in the hall just before they entered the court room. I told Judge Malott that he had better marry them before they started the honeymoon early. It is task such as this that lift the spirits of many of our local judges. Judge Malott has married hundreds of couples since he took the bench. Community service is another way in which our judges see the more gentle side of our society. While they are required to stay natural it would be a shame to force these caring individuals to completely isolate themselves from the community they are task to serve.
Monday, December 21, 2009
This evening following the introduction of bill R-09-10 by city councilman Isaac Benton the city council using funding totaling $80,826 for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act approved a grant to fund The Albuquerque Police Department which will utilize STOP Violence Against Women funds to partner with District Court to provide a Court Clerk position at the Albuquerque Family Advocacy Center; and will also utilize Recovery Act STOP Violence Against Women funds to establish a temporary Domestic Violence Specialist Officer designation for the City of Albuquerque Police.
This evenings meeting was a record for being one of the shortest. It ended at 7:00 pm.
Once the American people truly understand that the president along with the sixty percent of the U.S. Senate sold them out from the very start there will be no stopping the progressives paired with the independent voters to push back on this issue. Campaign donations from the insurance industry will be toxic to future candidates as voters express their anger over being sold out and forced to buy insurance they cannot begin to afford. In the future we will be watching as those same politicians try to force tax increases to hand even more taxpayers dollars over to the insurance industry which has brought and paid for our president.
The progressive movement lead by Howard Dean has its work cut out for it finding solid progressive candidates that are willing to reject money from that industry in order to fix the mess that our current system is about to create. The voters will be reminded on a daily bases every time they look at their paycheck just how angry they are about this bill which does not include a public option or anything else that will force the insurance industry to curve cost.
This fight is far from over! Voters have a great deal of influence at the polls each two years and their anger will drive them to force these corrupt politicians out of office as soon as they become eligible for reelection. We as Americans cannot allow either democrats or republicans funded by the insurance industry to forcible take using the legal system our hard earned income just because the insurance industry was willing to pay off our politicians.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
A few have warned that 2010 will be a massacre because of his unwillingness to listen to what the America people want from healthcare reform. The progressive wing of the party will have its work cut out for it over the next few years as they work hard to find replacement leaders who did not vote for this train wreck which the Obama administration is attempting to call reform even as they hand over 30 million Americans to the healthcare industry as slaves or these people will face becoming outlaws.
How could we have been so completely wrong about a man who promised us real healthcare reform and hope for a better future only to watch in disbelief as he sides with Wall Street and turns his back on the very public that elected him to office.
Howard Dean and his brother are calling on Americans to place as much pressure on Federal Senators as possible in the next few day but we all know that the time has passed and nothing short of a Christmas miracle will put an end to this nightmare.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The American people do not want a healthcare bill at all cost because they cannot afford it. The 30,000 feet the president talks about has gone to his head because he does not care what the voters want any longer. There is no way he can sell this monstrosity of a give away to the insurance industry as being good for the American people or as it being reform in any manner.
This will harm U.S. Senators for years to come if it passes because of their willingness to sell out and take blood money from the insurance industry in the process.
Someone needs desperately to sit down with the president and calm him down before he makes a mistake that could harm himself and the Democratic Party for years to come. We want real healthcare reform and are willing to take the time in order to get it done right the first time around. Stilling Christmas from 30 million Americans by selling them out to the insurance industry is no Christmas present to the people who elected him president in the first place.
It took Governor Bill Richardson years to undo the damage that Johnson did to education in this state because of his policies as Governor. Still he is now looking at a run for president.
Let’s not forget that his wife divorced him shortly after he left the governor’s office. It would appear he is working on a grassroots campaign and courting the tea party as his supporters.
He reportedly has been attending their meetings here in our state. I knew that the tea party appears high but had not idea that they had gone off the deep end to this point.
The tea party is a far right wing group known to hate government, taxes and anyone who is not light of skin. I have seen skin head individuals attending their events that openly attack our current president because of his race.
Looks like Johnson is determined once again to make his home state the laughing stock of our country. You almost have to feel sorry for the Republican Party with representatives like this making national news. Please does it have to be our state or can we get him to move to Texas?
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
“What they are actually talking about is something called the "individual mandate." That's a section of the laws that requires every single American to buy health insurance or break the law and face penalties and fines. So, the bill doesn't actually "cover" 30 million more Americans -- instead it makes them criminals if they don't buy insurance from the same companies that got us into this mess.
A public option would have provided the competition needed to drive down costs and improve coverage. It would have kept insurance companies honest by providing an affordable alternative Americans can trust. That's why, without a public option, this bill is almost a trillion dollar taxpayer giveaway to insurance companies.
We must act fast. Both Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Senators need to hear from you. Please stop whatever else you are doing and make the calls right now.
Senator Harry Reid
DC: (202) 224-3542
Carson City: (775) 882-7343
Las Vegas: (702) 388-5020
Reno: (775) 686-5750”
Senator Jeff Bingaman (505) 346-6601
Senator Tom Udall (505) 346-6791
So the questions is do we support a president who is willing to sell us out to the insurance industry or do we support the progressive movement and tell them no public option then no deal don’t make criminals out of the American people.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
City Councilman Rey Garduño's voting record on this issue:
EC-09-02 Appointment of Darren P. White to the Position of Chief Public Safety Officer
It is clear that Mayor Berry will have to take the blame for Darren White’s actions all by himself because White proudly announced at the city council meeting that he answers directly to the mayor even though the city rule directs him to report to the CEO of the city. I am sure that David Campbell is more then a little happy to hand that responsible (hot potato) over to Mayor Berry.
When asked about our city’s economic outlook Mayor Berry did not have any inspiring ideas to turn our city around and get it back on the road to prosperity. Mayor Chavez would have used an interview like that to announce good news and a new business but Mayor Berry came with empty hands and no plan. Still Mayor Chavez is working hard on ways to bring new green jobs to our state even if he is no longer the mayor.
Looks like Mayor Berry is wanting to turn Albuquerque into a sanctuary city for red light runners as he takes a closer look at red light cameras in the Duke City. You have to hand it to him as he pays back the republicans in the northeast heights of our city. Republicans up in that area of the city don’t think traffic laws apply to them after all this is where the most of those cameras are located.
Mayor Berry is still looking for ways to cut our city budget so maybe he will find ways to reduce city services in the coming weeks. Maybe then he can hire another double dipper for his top administration.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Prime examples of these new policies are their new policies on parent-teacher conferences and cell phone usage. Both new policies were developed with little to no parent, student, or teacher input. Students are not treated as individuals with individual abilities to take responsible and in some cases these new policies show not desire to take into account either the individual needs of special needs students or poor performing students.
You would think that common sense would tell the school board that a partnership between parents, teachers, and students would be the best approach for developing a successful and rewarding term but when you place individuals in control who have a autocratic management style then the end result is to teach our children not to question blanket rules that unfairly target individuals who have not misused a system.
Conferences which exclude teachers fails to develop strong bonds between parents and teachers therefore opening the door to behaviors that require more strict control from top management. Businesses do not want employees that fail to think for themselves and show the ability to take responsibilities for their own behaviors while on the job. We do not want to force our children into a place where they need someone to control their every behavior. This type of micromanagement does not encourage independent thinkers.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
In my parent’s day they had four children but only three lived to adulthood so I don’t think for one minute that any parent with only one child should be lax on protecting their only child. My parents let me roam the West Virginia mountains at the age of three without fear but in today’s society one cannot let their child very far without a danger to their life.
For working parents who want to provide their children with after school activities it is a must to know when they need to be picked up so that they are not left standing outside a empty school with no one to protect them from harm. Schools are a lot larger now and parents have a job just finding their students after school. Should school be released early for any reason students then need to contact parents for pickup and schools have proven that they cannot keep records in good order of how to contact parents. They rely on the students with their cell phones to do it for them.
I am not against intelligent use of cell phones and rule that would encourage it but taking a vital link to parents away from a child could result in the school being sued for causing harm or even death to a child. I for one would sue the pants off the school system if any harm came to my child because some over zealous instructor felt the need to take my child’s line of communication from her during school.
Cell phones have given parents with active children a strong sense of security and with the violent behavior shown in schools across the country over the past twenty years it is no wonder that parents feel the need to check in on their children during the school day. School board president Marty Esquivel should stop acting like a out of control dictator and start communicating with the parents who elected him to office in the first place otherwise we may be forced to find someone who can in the future. His job is to provide policies that protect our child from harm and provide a secure learning environment without unnecessarily causing fear to parents of only children. I myself have call him twice in the last year but both times he has failed to return the call. Last time I checked he was an elected official or maybe he is just another politician who does not care what the voters think or feel about APS policies.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
The back lash from this complete and total failure will be felt by U.S. Senators for many years to come as progressive leaders seek to remove conservative senators in an attempt to correct the colossal mistake carried out by the U.S. Senate and the current president.
Their fear of conservatives will result in a loss of votes and control until a new senate can be installed that will more clearly reflex the views and desire of the voting public.
The insurance industry will rake in huge profits at the expense of the voting public but in the long term will lose total control and may not survive the anger of the progressive voters.
Just a few of the reactions:
Keith Olbermann-“total and unmitigated defeat without a war.”
Jane Hamsher- “Shoveling taxpayer dollars into ‘too big to fail’ insurance companies is not the change I voted for,” she wrote. “The failure to establish a public option to control medical costs and increase competition is President Obama’s failure alone.”
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
What happens when low income working families and the middle class are forced to buy insurance they cannot afford because the federal government forces them into a position where they have no other option? What will these families have to give up in order to hand over their hard earned cash to private insurance companies who rake in huge profits?
Why after being giving a huge victory last year in November’s election are Democratic Senators caving in to pressure to remove a public option from healthcare bills. How much money has been handed over to senators to betray the voting public on this issue?
It would indeed appear that they don’t care what the public wants but only what the insurance gravy train industry wants in this matter. When will the U.S. Senate and the Oval office grow a backbone and stand up for the American people? How is this different from having the Republican Party in control of the U.S. Senate? If democratic senators fear lossing seats in the senate then they had better start pushing for a public option unless they want progressive voters to not cast a vote in 2010 for any U.S. Senator.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
We are facing record numbers of unemployed workers which puts stress on local and state government. States are facing budget cuts brought on by weak job numbers and yet large corporations are seeing large profits return.
These profits are at the cost of job cuts which have put Americans on the unemployment lines in record numbers. America voters are beginning to ask where is the benefit from bailing out Wall Street if they cannot put food on the table or even have a home in which to have a table.
Washington is living in a bubble where they don’t care about Main Street American Voters. The President is hosting state parties which are restricted to VIPs while Americans are struggling to put food on the table. Since when is it time to throw parties while Americans are facing difficult economic times and who bloody cares what social light crashed his last party? Why is Washington holding hearings on this when far more important issues are facing the American public?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
We want to see our troops at home in their jobs and in our college classrooms. We want to wake up knowing that they are safe in their own beds with their families around them in peace. We know that they are willing to give their lives and limbs for this country and for that we honor them.
Money is not the main issue when it comes to deciding where or not to add more troops to this war or for how long they should stay. The president must look at the safety of the American people and the American troops. Open ended wars would do no good for Afghanistan or for America because we don’t want to be nation builders. We are not willing to take another country’s natural resources and assets in order to make a conflict profitable for us in the long run.
The Arab countries do themselves and us a huge disservice by not dealing with their own internal issues that have caused this problem in the first place. Osama Bin Laden is not a leader of a country or a spiritual leader for that matter. He is a CIA trained trouble maker who knows far less than most Arabs about his own country or culture. He is more like an American then an Arab.
He is the only reason that the Americans have a presents in that part of the world and if the leaders of the Arab countries dealt with him then the Americans would have no reason to have a presents in that region of the world. You almost wonder if past presidents did not have him trained as an excuse to invade the Arab countries since he has caused two wars and is working on a third. Maybe Arab leaders with all of their objections truly want America to build their poor nations while riding them of trouble leaders and are using him as a tool for those ends.
President Obama is being forced to action and is trying his level best to find a way out of this conflict in a speedy way without harming the safety of Americans. It was a war he was handed not one of his choosing. It was a war that should have been dealt with eight years ago except for the fact that President Bush had old issues to settle with the Iraq republic.
The ground war is becoming harder and more dangerous in Afghanistan as of late so something must be done to put an end to this conflict and give control of this country back to its Arab leaders and their people. I don’t personally wish to see this conflict drag on but I also don’t see a more practical end for it then to support our president at present but I cannot and will not support delaying an end if he is given this 18 months so there will be no support for revisiting this issue at the end of 18 months. It is now his war and he had better get it done.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
With word that the state is once again looking at raising the amount of income that state and educational employees have to pay into those funds the sight of someone like Darren White taking home well over $125,000 could do R.J. Berry’s image of being a fiscal conservative a great deal of harm in this city. The future will tell us if our new mayor is willing and able to live up to his views on the city budget or if it was all just words to get him elected during difficult economic times.
White will not be the only double dipper hired by the new mayor so why is the chief of police the only employee who is turning down a retirement while the others are cashing in on this unacceptable set of rules.
It sure looks like it will take democrats like Diane Denish, State Senator Tim Keller, State Senator Tim Eichenberg and State Senator Cisco McSorley to cut these over paid public employees off from the gravy train of state retirement funds at a time when our state cannot afford their price tags.
It does not appear strange at all how State Senator Jennings and State Senator Smith want to tax average voters for their daily bread before doing something to deal with this problem. Maybe they are too busy protecting their own pork to fight for a real way to cut cost in our retirement funds.