Corporate Tax Giveaway Update: Gov. Martinez’s budget wizard apologizes for misleading legislature

Back in mid-March during the closing minutes of the 2013 session, the New Mexico House passed a massive corporate tax cut package — with no floor debate and no questions permitted. And, in what most observers believe was an unprecedented breach of protocol, Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford was allowed to take the microphone on the House floor and speak. His budget wizardry was enlisted in a last-ditch attempt to calm the anxieties of legislators.

Why the heartburn? Well for one thing, hardly any of them had had a chance to read the so-called “compromise” bill that had sprung out of Finance Committee the night before. The House Taxation and Revenue hadn’t seen the bill — although it had previously rejected many of its key components earlier in the session. There were legitimate long-term concerns about fiscal impacts of such a far-reaching measure.

This was a bill that would slash the corporate tax rate and replace some of the lost state revenue by pushing the tax burden onto New Mexico counties and municipalities.

But never fear, they said! Tom Clifford is here.

And he won the day with his stand-up routine. The rules of the legislative process were stretched beyond the breaking point. Yet based on his confident assurances, the bill picked up enough Democrats to pass with time having expired on the clock.

Governor Martinez wasted no time in signing HB641 into law. Then her PR flacks kicked into overdrive, spinning the national news media with a tale of New Mexico’s bold Latina Republican governor whose consummate political skill brought an obstructionist Democratic legislature to its senses and got it to pass “her landmark tax reform.”  (Subtext: Don’t you know presidential timber when you see it!)

Out-of-state political fundraisers featuring the all-conquering Governor quickly ensued.

Well, the story doesn’t end there.

Yesterday, almost two months after that day of infamy in New Mexico legislative history, we got the rest of the story. From the Albuquerque Journal:

Apology given for tax bill information
By Dan Boyd on Wed, May 15, 2013

SANTA FE – The top budget official in Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration apologized to legislators Tuesday for claiming in March that a massive tax package would have a positive fiscal impact to the state during each of the next five years.

Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford told members of an interim legislative committee Tuesday the information he provided on the House floor during the final hours of this year’s 60-day session was based on a different version of the bill.

“I apologize for that,” said Clifford, who testified on the tax package during the frantic final minutes of this year’s session.

In contrast to Clifford’s original claim, an estimate released after lawmakers approved the tax package calculates that the legislation will cost the state more than $70 million in forgone revenue in the 2017 fiscal year. It will provide the state with about $15 million in additional revenue during the next two budget years before the fiscal impact turns negative, according to the estimate, which does not factor in possible future economic development.

At least one Democratic lawmaker said Tuesday that he did not think the tax package would have been approved by the Legislature if Clifford had originally portrayed the budget hit as negative.

“If he would have told membership the truth, I don’t think they would have voted for it,” said Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, who voted against the bill.

Read the rest of the story here… and weep.

Martinez debut on national stage big on inspiration, short on policy

(From El Grito de Nuevo México By Adriana Sanchez On August 30, 2012) Gov. Susana Martinez debuted on the national political stage in Tampa, Fla., last night, one in a line-up of speakers at the national Republican convention designed to showcase the party’s talent and diversity. It was a safe and well-rehearsed speech… (Link to story)

Governor Martinez’s Vetoes Killed Jobs (VIDEO)

It’s true. Despite all of the “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” rhetoric spinning out of the Governor’s office, the fact is her vetoes are costing jobs in New Mexico’s small towns and rural communities.

We know. You won’t read about it in the Albuquerque Journal.

But facts (and stats) are stubborn things, and Sarah Kennedy’s got a slew of ’em. Watch.

Tik Tok… not just a Ke$ha song! Clock is ticking on Governor’s decision whether to close corporate tax loophole (VIDEO)

Will she or won’t she? That IS the question.

Will Governor Susana Martinez do the right thing and and sign Senate Bill 9 into law, closing the tax loophole for Big Box out-of-state retailers and give New Mexico businesses a fair shake in the bargain? Or… (shudder), will she veto the bill? (See “Countdown to Decision“.)

As Sarah Kennedy explains, time is running out!


To contact the Governor’s office:

Phone: 505-476-2200



Senate floor action features criticism of Governor’s messages and the Albuquerque Journal’s coverage

By Matthew Reichbach

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings speaking on the floor of the Senate. Photo by Matthew Reichbach.

Two state Senators stood on the Senate floor today and leveled criticism at the Governor’s office for its handling messages to the legislature, and at the Albuquerque Journal for a news story about the controversy. The issue of Governor’s messages has a bearing on on which bills can be ruled as germane for consideration during the session.

In a 30-day session like the current one, the only bills allowed to be considered and acted upon are those that pertain to budget matters — or those that are related to any subject contained in a Governor’s message. Some lawmakers have said that the messages from Martinez are overly broad and would create a logjam of legislation during the 30-day session.

Martinez was criticized last year for adding a large number of subjects to the official call for September’s special session which some legislators, predominantly Democrats, said would distract from the constitutionally mandated task of redistricting — a complicated job that happens only once every ten years.

At issue in the Albuquerque Journal story was a quote from Scott Darnell, a spokesman for Martinez.

“Despite our efforts to be accommodating, they have expressed a desire to be more restrictive and … we will work with that, but members who are unhappy with their bill not being heard would need to speak with their leadership – and not the Governor’s Office,” Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings (D-Roswell) took exception to the quote, saying, “There were no errors on the part of the Senate or House. The messages were very broad.”

Jennings explained that the Senate would not ask the Governor to “pull back” her messages to the Senate and issue new, narrower messages, but instead keep the original messages in place and that future messages be made narrower in scope. Jennings explained that the Senate Committee on Committees had already ruled legislation germane based on the original messages, adding that it would be unfair now to pull that legislation back.

“Those messages had gone out and the cards had been played,” Jennings said.

Sen. Cisco McSorley (D-Albuquerque) criticized the Albuquerque Journal for its story, accusing it of bias.

McSorley said the Journal does not get both sides of the story. “They seem to reprint press releases from the Governor’s office and that they’re not really helping people of the state of New Mexico understand how their government functions and how the stakes are made.”

Of course, legislators complaining about the way the media writes a story or about the Governor’s actions is not unusual. However, it does provide an interesting interlude during the early days of the session when most of the action is dominated by routine minutiae like passing committee reports and expressing support for the Boys and Girl Club of New Mexico.

Odds and Ends

  • The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that even some in the Republican Party were critical of the Governor’s messages.
  • McSorley noted that the Albuquerque Journal does not pay gross receipts tax. This brings to mind a move in Oklahoma to place a sales tax on on the cost of newspapers to pay for bonuses for National Board Certified teachers.
  • Over 200 bills have been introduced in the Senate so far this session — only a fraction of those will make it out of committee, let alone be passed along fro Martinez’s signature — or veto.

State of the State: Governor lays out agenda

By Matthew Reichbach

Gov. Susana Martinez used her annual State of the State address to announce her agenda for the 2012 regular session. The speech featured few, if any, surprises.

Martinez outlined her positions on education reform and pushed for tax breaks for businesses in an effort to avoid “pyramiding” of taxes on small businesses. (For a good analysis of this issue, see Winthrop Quigley’s piece in the Albuquerque Journal.)

Martinez called for teacher evaluations, which she said would help reward the best teachers in the state. Martinez called for teachers to assess children annually beginning in kindergarten and to tie teacher bonuses to the evaluations.

“The teacher who takes kids three grades behind and gets them up to grade-level has arguably accomplished more than the teacher who has a class full of over-achievers,” Martinez said. “That’s why I’m urging you to support a teacher evaluation system that will identify these great heroes in our schools and reward them accordingly.”

The governor also supports a bill that would end “social promotion” or allowing students to move on from the 3rd grade unless they reach certain benchmarks.

Martinez called for legislators to “close the revolving door that turns citizen legislators into special-interest lobbyists, where one day they’re serving the public and the next day, they’re using those connections to serve a special interest.”

Most recently, state Sen. Kent Cravens (R-Albuquerque) resigned his position to take a high-paying job with the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. Other well-known lobbyists are former state legislators.

Continue reading

Round 3 on Drivers License Debate Coming

By Matthew Reichbach

Governor Susana Martinez promised today to bring back the controversial and time-consuming issue of repealing a law that permits undocumented immigrants to receive New Mexico drivers licenses. Significantly, both the pro- and anti-repeal sides on this question claim that their respective positions better protect the public’s safety.

Martinez, and proponents of the repeal, claim that immigrants from other countries come to the state for the purpose of getting drivers licenses, making this an issue of national security as well as public safety. Conversely, opponents of repeal say that letting undocumented immigrants, who live and work in New Mexico, earn drivers licenses makes the roads safer through accident and fatalities reduction, lower insurance rates, and simply providing law enforcement with a complete database of who is driving and what their driving record is.

The Senate and House could not come to an agreement during the 2011 regular session on a bill and the session ended without one being sent to Governor Martinez’s desk. The Senate version would have allowed undocumented immigrants to earn drivers licenses, but would have clamped down on fraud. That bill would also have required foreign nationals to have their fingerprints taken in order to receive a drivers license.

This fall’s special session saw Martinez once again bring the repeal up in the face of heavy opposition. The primary purpose of the special session was ostensibly the daunting once-in-a-decade task of redistricting. Nevertheless, Martinez put the drivers license issue, along with several other non-redistricting related items, on her call.

Despite her action, the legislature did not take up the drivers license issue during the special session, although there was extensive media attention on the issue, both in the state and nationally.

Now, once again, the issue will be back for a third time under Martinez.

Washington is the other state that issues drivers licenses without regard to the applicant’s immigration status. Utah has adopted the approach of creating a two-tier system, with undocumented immigrants allowed to receive a “driving privilege card.”

Martinez has rejected such a two-tier system.

Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming), who supports the Governor on repeal, nonetheless is concerned that the debate on such a controversial question would dominate the upcoming session— one limited to just 30 days with a focus on passing a state budget .

“I’d hate for it to dominate. I personally think we have more pressing problems,” Smith told New Mexico Capitol Report’s Milan Simonich.

State Fair’s Casino Deal Raises Pay-to-Play Concerns (VIDEO)

Neighborhood and community groups are still in a state of shock over last week’s unscheduled vote by the State Fair Commission to approve a 25-year lease arrangement calling for construction of a new $20 million casino smack in the middle of Albuquerque. But it’s what Governor Susana Martinez wanted and so that’s that.

Somehow it seems that a slightly modified equation has simply produced an all-too-familiar result:

New Governor+Old Campaign Donor = Pay-to-Play 2.0

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here! What’s really important is, “What does Sarah Kennedy have to say about all this, huh?” Watch and learn: