By Tracy Dingmann
More than a few fans of good journalism and open government wished local journalists had worked a little bit harder to reveal the tightly-wrapped gubernatorial candidate that was Susana Martinez - specifically, to get more answers from her about how she actually intended to lead the state out of its current budget crisis.
During her campaign, Martinez galvanized many New Mexicans with popular but vague Republican talking points – shrinking state government, cutting wasteful spending, refusing to raise taxes – while simultaneously dodging media outlets (The Weekly Alibi, The Santa Fe Reporter, KNME-TV) who sought to ask her substantive questions about her real plans for governing the state.
Many people faulted Journal reporters and editors for not pressing harder for answers and for appearing slanted toward Martinez. It’s a topic we’ve covered on Journal Watch.
But today, a lone voice at the Journal has spoken up with some very hard questions for our Gov.-elect.
In a curt letter to Governor-Elect Susana Martinez titled, “Dear Gov.-Elect, What’s the Plan?” the Journal’s Winthrop Quigley asks a number of tough questions in a laudable attempt to unwrap that mystery package we just elected.
Quigley’s incisive inquiries come a bit late in the game to inform New Mexican voters – the election is over, after all – but in the interests of good, informative journalism, we’ll take it.
We can only hope Quigley keeps up the solitary drumbeat of wanting more information over the next four years – and inspires more news outlets to ask these questions, too.
So what kind of fact-based information have New Mexicans been missing?
From Quigley’s Nov. 9 UpFront column:
Dear Gov.-elect Martinez,
Congratulations on your success at the polls last week. You’ve signed up for a very tough job in a very complicated state.
I look forward to hearing how you plan to attack the economic problems that have long afflicted our state:
• Our high poverty levels.
• An over-reliance on the sale of commodities such as petroleum and agricultural products into chaotic global markets.
• An under-representation of businesses that can control their own destinies with proprietary technology.
• Too many large, out-of-state companies with no real loyalty to New Mexico that spin off too few local entrepreneurs.
• Too many people working for governments that spin off almost no entrepreneurs at all.
• Too many technology companies that rely on too few government customers.
• Too few skilled senior managers capable of helping our brilliant technical people launch their own companies.
• Too many rural areas without the infrastructure or access to markets they need to compete in the global economy.
• Too many workers trained in construction and retail sales and not enough trained in engineering and accounting.
• Too many undercapitalized banks lacking the financing skills to help entrepreneurs get off the ground.
• Too many high school dropouts.
The list could be much longer.
Your campaign advertising never offered much information about how you intend to solve some of these problems. Your website says we need to shrink the size of government, root out corruption, cut taxes, give state contracting preferences to New Mexico businesses, get rid of some regulations on oil and gas producers, give tax credits to companies that hire or buy equipment, and cut wasteful state spending.
New Mexico’s economy suffers from structural problems. Your website offers tactical solutions. When you face the voters again in four years, I’m confident we’ll have a balanced state budget because the Constitution requires it. Based on the program you’ve offered, I’m doubtful we’ll have made much of a dent in our chronic economic ills.
Quigley goes on to use facts to debunk some of the most popular (and most vague) planks in Martinez’s electoral platform, including her pledge to roll back regulations on extractive industries in the state (Quigley notes that local oil and gas people tell him that weak prices and a surge in new producers nationally and globally are hurting them a lot more than stricter state regulations ever have); claims that low taxation automatically leads to prosperity ( Quigley asks why high-tax states like Minnesota and Massachusetts consistently have high per-capita personal income and low unemployment) and an oft-stated high reliance on lowering taxes to attract business to the state (Quigley notes that businesses routinely rank other factors, such as infrastructure, work force availability, quality of life and access to markets much higher than taxes when deciding whether to move to a state or not).
I understand you haven’t spent a lot of time in Santa Fe up until now, so you may not be aware that a lot of your ideas aren’t exactly original.
Quigley ends with this plaintive request for our Gov.-elect:
Perhaps you have some other ideas to fix our economy that you haven’t yet shared with us. I hope so.
Quigley’s column is a good start by a local journalist in attempting to get real answers from our next Governor – but let’s hope Winthrop isn’t left alone to do the heavy lifting for the next four years.
After all, the Journal does have an investigative team – perhaps the paper’s editors will decide that ferreting out Martinez’s economic agenda in these days of real crisis is a worthy job for Thom Cole and the rest of the gang.