Jul 31, 2011

The Week in Review

We began the week with a, “So what else is new,” story. No, it wasn’t about the federal debt ceiling fight. It was a story of the how the oil and gas industry in New Mexico continues to pay a large portion of our bills for us. Amazingly, certain segments of our political system continue to use oil and gas for their cars and trucks, cash oil and gas checks, spend oil and gas revenues, and brand oil and gas as evil. Biting the hand that feeds seems to be a favorite state and national past time.
The news spotlight continues to shine on two district court judges who find themselves under scrutiny in the state. Facing charges of rape in Albuquerque, Judge Pat Murdoch announced his retirement. And facing multiple felony counts in Las Cruces, Judge Michael Murphy was arrested on yet another bribery related charge late in the week. It has not been a good year for the news flow on district judges in the state.
Jan Goodwin
Speaking of bad news flow, the Education Retirement Board (ERB) has crammed twenty years worth of bad news into 2011. Earlier in the year, ERB head Jan Goodwin allowed as to how the ERB had issued a bunch of monthly checks for incorrect amounts all the way back in August of 2010, including one for about a quarter of a million dollars. She conceded she has not recovered all of those funds yet. This week, Goodwin allowed as how the ERB had cost itself over $700,000 when it prematurely terminated the contract of an asset management firm based in New York.
Goodwin said originally the ERB thought the early cancellation would “only” cost the ERB about $88,000. Later she said it was discovered that the ERB would have to pay the terminated firm over $700,000. Nobody, including Goodwin, stepped forward to take the blame for the latest “miscalculation.” In the wake of the latest revelation, many New Mexico-based asset management firms were left to lament how much they don't get paid to NOT manage a portion of the state’s ERB funds. And the state’s revenue coffers were left to lament how much the total cost is of outsourcing asset management services to non-New Mexico firms. It is also good to know UNM and NMSU are training finance students to find jobs in the asset management business.... somewhere else. (Full disclosure requires me to say I work, hire people, and pay all sorts of taxes in New Mexico through my owenership interest in an in-state asset management business.)
The Tea Party AKA the "Boogie Man"
We noticed a change in blame game tactics this week in Washington. It seems the so-called “Tea Party” has become the new boogie man of Democrats. We are told the Dems haven’t passed a budget in more than two years mainly because the “rich” need to be taxed more to save our country. Dems also say the Tea Party is ruining everything. Fortunately for NM House members Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, the leader they voted for to guide them in the House in the wake of last November’s electoral wipe out, is still Nancy Pelosi. And former Speaker Pelosi is once again taking her powerful message to the New Mexico people, as well as the rest of the nation. Apparently Nancy, Ben Ray, and Martin want everyone to know they are fighting as hard as they can to keep us on the same path........even if the damn Tea Parties try to get the nation to change directions. Good to know.
Environmentalist radicals seem to have unfettered access to lawyers. And they had another good week in New Mexico. Once again the New Mexico Supreme Court provided the mercenary alarmists with “standing” in an action that will enable them to drive up the price of electricity and save the planet at the same time.
In another item of interest on the planet saving front this week, the City of Las Vegas, NM learned it cannot fix leaks in its water supply because it might disturb the habitat of the creatures that love the muddy mess below Peterson Dam. According to creature sensitive federal officials in the Obama administration, once Peterson Dam started leaking the city’s precious water supply, ownership of the water and control of the way the dam performs somehow magically transferred. Now the water needs of the human beings living in Las Vegas are secondary. The lawyers representing toads, tadpoles, and salamanders claimed the critters are now "owed" the water coming from the leaks. They are entitled to them because……get this…..they are "wetlands."
There was some very bad news for one planet saving “scientist.” This one had decided a few years back that his data proved that polar bears were facing extinction. Turns out he was placed on administrative leave this week in the wake of what looks like serious evidence that he “fudged” his data. Who’d have thought with billions of dollars in climate change research grants on the line that somebody would fudge data?
News late in the week told us what we already knew about the difference between Susana Martinez and Bill Richardson. State government is getting smaller under the leadership of Martinez. Observers believe that the lack of presidential ambition has made it unnecessary for Martinez to hire state employees to help with a huge out-of-state national campaign. The headcount in Santa Fe for those serving the governor’s office as “exempt” employees has already dropped 40% and figures to fall farther. How will she possibly manage?
And finally, the state is providing Medicaid benefits to those in New Mexico living as much as 235% ABOVE the poverty level. Now it looks like the federal government’s matching Medicaid dollars are sure to be reduced. Naturally, an “angry” crowd showed up at an Albuquerque meeting. They demanded New Mexico taxpayers be charged with making up the difference. Unfortunately, according to observers at the meeting, there weren’t many taxpayers at the gathering to argue for more self-reliance and fewer handouts. Most of them were at work pulling the economic wagon that those yelling at the meeting were sitting in.

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