Friday, October 31, 2014

Why New Mexicans Must Not Re-Elect Susana Martinez As Governor of New Mexico

(What follows is a partial re-post of my April 3, 2014 Blog.)

New Mexico is a beautiful state with wonderful natural resources but with some of the sorriest statistics of economic well-being in the United States. One fifth of the 2 million people in New Mexico live below the National poverty line.

New Mexico is at rock bottom of fifty states measured by 16 key indicators for overall child well-being



The grinding poverty of 31% of New Mexico's children has resulted in an "achievement gap" in educational accomplishments of our elementary school aged children as recently documented by a recent report by NM Center on Poverty and Law:

Table 2. New Mexico achievement gap between low-income and non low-income 
students that are “at or above proficient” in reading and math (NAEP 2013) 
              
    % of low-income students        % of non-low-income students       Achievement gap 
4th grade reading       15 %                                   39 %                                  -24 

8th grade reading       16 %                                   37 %                                  -21 

4th grade math            24 %                                    51 %                                  -28 

8th grade math            16 %                                    39 %                                  -23 

Our college educated young people as well as many of our younger families struggle to find good-paying jobs and are leaving the state for greener pastures.  According to recent statistics, New Mexico's growth rate is stagnate and most recently has experienced a net "out-migration" of population:

In recent years, New Mexico has had more people leaving the state than have come here. In the 12 months that ended July 1, 2013, the state had a net outmigration of 8,809, according to Census Bureau figures. Between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2013, the state’s net outmigration was 9,750, the Census Bureau said.
In January, 2010, a Republican Governor was elected with many promises to improve the state. Her name is Susana Martinez and she is considered one of the "bright lights" of the national Republican Party because she is a female Hispanic Governor in a predominantly Democratic state.  Governor Martinez is definitely on the short-list as a Vice-Presidential candidate for the Republican Party in 2016. 

But her accomplishments are practically nil for the people and state of New Mexico.  Her record on the economy is lackluster.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is one indicator of economic health. By the start of Martinez' 3rd year in office, the rate of change in the state's GDP had only improved to a mere 0.2% while its southwestern neighbors were enjoying faster increases in their rate of GDP growth and the US rate was accelerating.



In fact, the economic indices for New Mexico have been stagnate for the most part since Martinez was elected in 2010.  There has been some improvement in the unemployment rate which has declined 1.2% and is now at 6.7% as of February, 2014, but BLS statistics indicate only 16,015 net new jobs were created between January, 2010 and February, 2014.  Without enough good jobs in New Mexico, thousands of workers have moved out of state since April, 2010 to find work,.  The real question to be asked is what has Susana Martinez done to attract and retain jobs to New Mexico?

The New Mexico economy is heavily dependent on government, energy industries, agriculture and mining, film and television, and tourism.  Manufacturing, not so much.  Although she touts New Mexico as a tax-friendly state to attract business with a recently enacted 0% corporate business tax for manufacturers and she talks a lot about trying to land the Tesla Battery Manufacturing Plant, the truth is she tried to kill the nascent film industry when she vetoed HB 379 in 2013 which would have continued and improved tax rebates for films and television made here in New Mexico. The film tax rebates were begun under a Democratic administration and therefore were not favored by Martinez. The Democrats in the State legislature and the outcry of New Mexico's citizens caused her to reverse gears when she signed almost the exact same bill a few days later.

There are a few industries that are getting very favorable treatments from the administration of Susana Martinez and that is the mining, dairy and oil and gas companies who provided her with so much political money in 2010.  In 2013, Susana Martinez rewarded her contributors with favorable environmental law revisions to allow the corporate dairy farms and copper mines to pollute ground water supplies - one of New Mexico's scarcest and most precious resources.

Susana Martinez is a member of the political party that shut down the government in 2013 and damaged the state's economy and jobs of a high percentage of New Mexico's citizens.  She didn't take on the Republican National leadership and tell them their antics in Washington, DC were hurting New Mexicans.  Her silence was an extreme disservice to our state.

She has done nothing to alleviate the extreme poverty that is a major contributor to our young people's poor educational preparation and unemployment.  Indeed, it is the horribly high level of poverty that causes the collateral damage to New Mexican families suffering from substance abuse, homelessness, child abuse, crime, poor health and hunger. 

Susana Martinez is more concerned with attaining a higher national office and so her actions are meant to attract the Tea Party and conservative GOP interest nationally, so to show she is a fiscal "hawk", she has acted to cut important government services for the poor and mentally disabled.   In 2013, she stopped funding for behavioral health facilities serving 30,000 persons saying there was mismanagement.  Martinez gave "no-bid contracts" for an auditing firm and behavioral health services to Arizona companies that have provided her with political support.  Now a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal reports findings that 23% fewer New Mexicans are receiving mental health care. Then, $6.6 million of the budget of the state's child welfare department (Children Youth and Families Department) was returned to the state treasury amid rising child abuse and mental health treatment demands. 

When Susana Martinez was elected in 2010, 1 in 5 New Mexicans did not have any kind of health care through insurance or other government programs. After the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010 and offered millions of dollars in federal assistance to set up a state-wide health exchange, Democrats and Republicans in the New Mexico legislature passed a bill in 2011 to set up the exchange.  There had been a year of work with "shareholders" from the industry, business, consumers, and hospitals.  The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce urged the Governor to sign the bill and establish a state-wide health insurance exchange to help 450,000 New Mexicans get health insurance. The newly elected Governor, catering to the far-right hysteria about "Obamacare," chose to veto the bi-partisan legislation. She finally signed a bill in March, 2013 to establish a state health exchange, but with two years lost, the state exchange was not ready to enroll people on its own exchange by October 1, 2013 and individuals seeking health care were re-directed to the over-burdened federal web site. I am one of the people who needed to purchase individual insurance and I can tell you it was one big mess.

On education, her main strategy to "reform education" is to blame teachers for New Mexico's children's poor educational performance.  She brought in as her Cabinet-level Secretary of Education, Hanna Skandera, from Florida at Jeb Bush's recommendation.  Hanna Skandera, who has never been a teacher herself, promotes the "privatization" of education. Her primary "solution" to improve the schools is to implement "endless testing" so that teachers spend long hours teaching "to the test."  This has done nothing to improve the educational levels of our children and it drives veteran teachers to retirement.  Martinez' arrogance and ignorance of the value of teachers can be heard in this audio clip provided by Mother Jones Magazine as Susana Martinez slams teachers who get a year round salary but "don't work...3 months out of the year":



Why has Susana Martinez acted in a way that hurts some of our most needy New Mexican citizens? She does this this to demonstrate that she is a "fiscal conservative" as part of her bona fides for 2016 national political office.  The dailydamage of such policies to the people of New Mexico is staggering and doesn't help promote the state as a desirable place to relocate your home or business.

As mental illness, substance abuse, domestic and child abuse and crime increases in New Mexico, it seems that the solution of our Republican Party leaders (like Albuquerque Mayor Berry and Governor Martinez) is to militarize the police and let them loose to "shoot-to-kill" the homeless, alcohol and drug addicted and mentally disabled citizens. The highly publicized case of James Boyd was treated with initial silence by these leaders with the new police chief even pronouncing it as a "justified" killing.

One more thing I need to say here. Martinez got elected in 2010 on an "anti-corruption" platform and a pledge to have the most "transparent administration" in New Mexico's history. This appealed strongly to NM voters who were weary of political corruption cases. There has been in New Mexico a long history of corruption and "pay-to-play" politics that have affected both political parties, but the swirling controversy over the former Democratic governor, Bill Richardson and his relationship to investment companies who were given favorable treatment for political contributions, helped to defeat his Lt. Governor, Diane Denish, with "guilt by association".  Now we are seeing that Susana Martinez is just as concerned about keeping the voters in the dark about her own "back room" deals. Her missteps have been chronicled recently in some conservative national magazines as well as the Republican-leaning Albuquerque Journal.  Her "do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do" rhetoric on "transparency" opens her up to charges of hypocrisy.

There is no question that Susana Martinez must go as Governor of New Mexico.  If she wins in November, 2014, she will be the Republican Vice Presidential candidate in 2016.  We cannot let that happen to our country.