Martinez to fund food stamp extension with stimulus funds

Gov. Susana Martinez announced Monday that she was reversing a plan that would have slashed a food stamp extension that aids low income, elderly and disabled residents. The cuts were not in the budget that the Legislature passed and Martinez signed.

Martinez announced that the extension would be funded by the use of discretionary stimulus funds from the federal government. The funds will extend the program through September.

Martinez blamed the state legislature for the funds not being extended.

“Not only did our executive budget recommend an additional $10 million in Medicaid funding, but we aimed to fully fund the supplemental food stamp program for the next fiscal year as well,” Martinez said in a statement. “Though the Legislature chose to advance different priorities, I’m glad that we will be able to extend the food stamp program through September and discuss ways for it to be funded in the future.”

The money from the federal government must be spent by September or the money is taken away. Martinez previously eliminated $2.6 million in federal funding that she did not believe would be spent in time. That was money allocated by former Gov. Bill Richardson and will go towards, along with the food stamp extension, gas for state police.

The extension will continue the program where the minimum amount of food stamp benefits for elderly and disabled residents is $25 per month. The federal minimum is $16 per month, so the state covers the $9 extra per month in New Mexico.

Martinez also said that her line-item vetoes of the budget have cleared enough money to fund the program with state funds going forward. However, some of her line item vetoes are the subject of a lawsuit that seems destined for a date with the state Supreme Court. In one case, Martinez line item vetoed a single digit, turning a $150,000 appropriation to the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority into a $50,000 appropriation. Lawmakers contend this oversteps her constitutional authority as governor.

Martinez has not had much luck with the state’s high court, losing three rulings including one on slashing regulations and another on her decisions involving the state labor board. The state ruled unanimously that Martinez exceeded her authority in removing two members of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

Public employee unions have been the target of Republican governors throughout the nation, most notably in Wisconsin and Ohio.

Martinez hinted that the issue of funding this program could come during the special session for redistricting that will be held in the fall. Martinez has already said that the controversial issue of letting those in the country illegal get drivers licenses will be on the call for the special session.

Is your head ready to explode yet, Susana?

It’s another day in the movie entitled, “Cursed to Live in Interesting Times.”

For the Memo to Governor Martinez entitled, “New Mexico’s Race to the Bottom”, there’s this tidbit:

Five Reasons Why States Can’t Create Jobs by Cutting Business Taxes from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

In the “Baby, It Hurts So Good Department”, tough economic times couldn’t be working out better for Big Oil. Despite all those regulatory fetters, today Exxon Mobil reported a first quarter profit jump of 69%.

In view of the pain that motorists are feeling at the gas pump, along with the alleged focus of some in Congress to attacking the deficit, one would think Speaker John Boehner and GOP budget master Paul Ryan would be on the same page. But apparently, someone didn’t get the memo:

While Boehner rejects request to end subsidies for oil firms (The Hill)

Rep. Paul Ryan says it’s time to do just that. (Politico)

And what about “Drill Baby Drill” as a way out of the crisis?  Former Bush-McCain economic advisor admitted it wouldn’t make a dime’s worth of difference.

Meanwhile, don’t cry for Massachusetts! Despite being burdened with a state-imposed universal health insurance mandate (RomneyCare), the Bay State experienced an economic growth surge ahead of the overall United States in the first quarter of 2011. Oh, and as an added bonus (or rather “fetter”), the state’s uninsured rate is below 5%.

Back here in New Mexico, we’re bracing for the cut-off of federal stimulus funds that, according to UNM economists, paid for as many as 23,000 jobs through June of last year.

Tick, tick, tick.

 

Martinez Now 0 for 3 at NM Supreme Court – “Greener” Building Codes Will Be Published

Governor Susana Martinez

Check it out – our new Gov. Susana Martinez is now 0 for 3 at the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The following story is courtesy of Eric Mack at Public News Service:

SANTA FE, N. M. – Clean energy and conservation proponents are three-for-three, and it seems New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has struck out in the “new rules” department. The Sierra Club has withdrawn a lawsuit against the Martinez administration in exchange for her agreeing to publish new state building codes adopted last year to achieve greater energy efficiency.

The reversal comes after the State Supreme Court ordered the administration to publish two other sets of new environmental rules. Gov. Martinez had put a 90-day delay on implementing all such new rules and codes, but the high court said that move was overstepping her authority.

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Heinrich to Legislature: Make New Mexico a Clean Energy Capital

By Claus Whiteacre

Congressman Martin Heinrich spoke to a joint session in Santa Fe this yesterday and expressed his appreciation for the work performed by one of the few remaining citizen-legislatures in the country.

His speech reiterated much of what senior New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman said last week in his address to New Mexico lawmakers regarding the importance of federal funding for the state’s economy.

Where Heinrich diverged from Bingaman was in how New Mexico can improve its economy and create jobs by becoming a clean energy capital.

He used the Bell Group’s unveiling of their solar array last year as an example of local technology and jobs that should be the way of the future.

To fulfill that vision the local workforce must be trained; which starts by strengthening math, technology, and engineering skills in our young people.

Strikingly, it appeared that some Republican lawmakers were not interested in hearing from our national representatives. As during the Bingaman speech,  a notable number of them were absent from the floor.

Sen. Bingaman Speaks to State Legislators about Federal Funding Challenges

Sen. Jeff Bingaman

By Claus Whiteacre

Legislative members convened in the House chambers today to listen to an address by U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman.

Notably absent were some Republican senators, who remained in the Senate chamber and held an impromptu mini-caucus as Sen. Bingaman spoke.

In his address to state legislators, New Mexico’s senior senator spoke of the similarities between the challenges facing the New Mexico legislature and Congress in Washington D.C.

“New Mexico relies on both government and the private sector to create jobs.” said Bingaman.

Bingaman went on to list a large number of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects and the associated federal funds that have flowed into the state over the last couple of years.

While that funding will no longer be available, Bingaman assured the audience that New Mexico will continue to receive large amounts of
federal dollars, including money for the national laboratories to use to modernize the nuclear arsenal and comply with the new START treat and  funds for the Airforce Advanced Research Lab to develop “plug and deploy” miniature satellites.

The challenge will be to make sure that the work on energy research continues at the labs and does not get overshadowed by the lab’s new responsibilities, he said.

While most states are looking at losing military funding in the coming years, Bingaman said that New Mexico should see a steady and
continuing increase.

A Much-Needed Conversation About America’s Economic Future

By Tracy Dingmann

There has been much talk about America’s economic future, but few chances for so-called regular folks to weigh in on what they think about it.

The regular folk will get their chance Saturday when the national initiative known as “AmericaSpeaks: Our Budget, Our Economy,” comes to Albuquerque as one of 20 cities to host and participate in an interactive National Town Meeting on America’s budget and economy.

When the meeting convenes Saturday, thousands of Americans across the country will meet in person to participate in volunteer-organized community conversations. Others will be able to tune-in from home to watch live video coverage online, participate in the discussion, and share their own priorities in an online forum.

About AmericaSpeaks

To sign up or to find out more, go to this site and click on “Join The Discussion” on the right side of the page.

The AmericaSpeaks forum was made possible by the generous contributions of a group of private foundations with diverse interests and programs, including The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

In a nationwide effort, the group has worked hard to reflect the authentic views of a large, informed, and representative group of Americans. The discussion will not be manipulated by any side or point of view, and will give the American public a real chance to find common ground.

In New Mexico, The Center for Civic Policy is just one of a wide range of groups that has been asked to participate in the process. You can read an interview with policy director Amanda Manjarrez here.

A Constructive, Credible Chance To Have Your Voice Heard

Suggestions and ideas raised at the conference will not just go into the ether. After June 26, AmericaSpeaks will present the priorities that emerge from the national discussion to Congress and President Obama, as well as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and the Bi-Partisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force. Find out more about what happens after June 26.

Contributors To Our National Debt

In talking about the national debt, one thing occurs to us – It’s impossible to look at our national debt without considering the conditions and circumstances that led us to it.

The Bush tax cuts for rich individuals and corporations were financed by debt and were a large contributor to our current inflated national obligation. It’s time to reverse the tax cuts and loopholes and make the rich and large corporations pay their fair share.

Two unfunded and protracted wars have also been large contributors to our national deficit.

What To Do?

The nation’s top economists agree that getting people back to work is the necessary solution we need to ensure economic recovery and put America on the path to a sustainable economic future.

In the short term, we must allow – no, demand – that lawmakers use all the tools necessary to create jobs and protect the public and victims of the current recession.

Health care reform was a necessary step towards addressing our nations skyrocketing health care costs. The reforms passed this year are projected to reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years.

Cutting unemployment benefits, education and Medicaid funding for states is the wrong thing to do. It will not only cut jobs but will unfairly attempt to balance our fiscal problems on backs of the middle class and the poor.

Join Us

Come join us in person or online Saturday for a productive and constructive national conversation!

It Ain’t Journalism, Folks

Have you noticed those Watchdog websites?

Maybe you have – New Mexico’s got one, after all. The ten state-based sites, which are funded by the free-market group The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, bill themselves as a “network of independent state-based journalists who investigate and report on state and local government.”

Since its launch late last year, many in New Mexico have noted that the reporting on the New Mexico Watchdog is thin and the motives behind the “scoops” it peddles to the  mainstream media have seemed…well…partisan at best.

But it hasn’t stopped the site’s main purveyor, Jim Scarantino, from boasting that he’s the only one with the “guts, determination and courage” to pull off his particular brand of investigation.

Yes, conservative investigative websites are now a trend – one that early on, some government watchdogs had hoped could be a way to keep investigative journalism alive in the face of a declining newspaper industry and the years of professional reporting experience that was disappearing with it.

However, a story in this month’s issue of The Washington Monthly concludes that perhaps the Watchdog clones and a number of other sites just like them could begin to perform that important function…if only the “investigating” on them was up to actual journalistic standards.

Journalist Laura McGann, an assistant editor at the prestigious Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University and former editor of the nonprofit news site the Washington Independent, takes an incisive look at the new trend in a piece called “Partisan Hacks: Conservatives Have Discovered the Virtues of Investigative Journalism. But Can Their Reporting Survive Their Politics?” (The Nieman Journalism Lab’s mission is to investigate and chronicle the changing world of journalism in the Internet age through original reporting, analysis and incisive commentary.)

McGann’s lengthy examination of the conservative investigative trend contains an embarrassing deconstruction of the “phantom Congressional district” story so widely heralded late last year by the New Mexico Watchdog.

From her story:

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Recovery Funds going to New Mexican Tribal Communities

I first want to thank Barb Wold for making me aware of this.  I just got through reading an article from Democracy for New Mexico entitled, “Recovery Act Funds go to NM Tribal Communities for Energy Efficiency, Transportation.”

A quick excerpt from her blog:

“Five pueblos and the County of San Juan will receive more than $900,000 in energy efficiency grants through the Department of Energy for energy audits, building retrofits and to create financial incentive programs for energy efficiency improvements. They include:

Pueblo of Cochiti: $40,400

Pueblo of Isleta: $112,000

Pueblo of San Felipe: $102,200

Pueblo of Taos: $61,400

Zuni Pueblo: $267,500

San Juan County: $329,400

Additionally, the Department of Transportation released ARRA funds to:

Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo: $156,000 to purchase one van and one bus compatible with Americans with Disability Act standards.”

This is great news and I applaud New Mexican Senators Udall and Bingaman who helped get this money to some of our Native communities.

These funds will help tribal residents save energy and make their homes and buildings more efficient, while also providing jobs for residents there in the realm of performing building retrofits and energy audits.

Also, make sure to go here to read the full blog by Barb.