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Governor keeping state government lean

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By Jay Miller

Gov. Susana Martinez has pleased almost everyone with her trimming of political appointees in state government. The only people not happy are a few politicos who hoped for jobs.
The target number for Martinez originally was to cut appointees from over 500, which former Gov. Bill Richardson had during most of his administration, to the 320 former Gov. Gary Johnson had before he left office.
But focus by Republicans on Richardson’s appointees, beginning over a year ago, caused Richardson to start cutting his appointees back so it wouldn’t be a campaign issue and wouldn’t tarnish his legacy.
So was that the end of the issue? Not for Susana. She asked for resignations from all of Richardson’s appointees and then set about deciding which of the jobs previously held by appointees really needed to be filled.
Obviously, the cabinet secretary posts needed somebody in them .. But as for deputy secretaries, 12 of those positions remain unfilled. Richardson was known by department secretaries for sending cronies in need of a job and sometimes with instructions that they were to be a deputy secretary.
So many departments had deputies without clearly defined job descriptions. And no money was sent with these appointees. Department secretaries had to find room for them in their budgets.
Of 337 governor-appointed positions allocated at the beginning of Martinez’s administration, she has filled only about 119 of them. That is such a low number that Legislative Finance Committee chairman John Arthur Smith, a Deming Democrat, cautioned the new administration that its management is understaffed in some areas.
When “Sen. No” from the eight years of the Richardson administration says you should consider hiring more people, consider it a major compliment.
Martinez is correct that government can operate without heavy layers of political appointees.
There are plenty of career state employees who can handle management jobs better than political appointees who don’t have a clue.
The governor’s office staff, which contains 26 authorized positions understandably also is made up entirely of political appointees. Cabinet members and gubernatorial staff make up nearly one half of Gov. Martinez’s political appointees.
And their salaries usually are lower than those of political appointees. Martinez has lowered salaries throughout state government, which has saved additional money. She hasn’t yet lowered her own salary.
Another big splash for our new governor, noticed mainly by business people is the easing of many regulations. Those regulations mostly were promulgated by the Richardson administration.
It was a predictable move by a Democratic governor wanting to attract attention as a presidential candidate. Martinez’s move to ease regulations is predictable for a Republican governor wanting to attract national attention.
Rules and regulations can be changed by governors because they are part of administering laws that legislatures pass. Many of the regulations going back and forth relate to health, safety and the environment.
Martinez also is pleasing many with her attacks on the movie industry. Nationally, Republicans don’t care much for Hollywood because it has far too many Democrats. There are notable exceptions but it is a fertile ground for Democratic fund raising.
Several new Republican governors have tightened regulations on the film industry while other states have increased their incentives. Many are eagerly watching to see how New Mexico’s slight reduction of incentives affects the industry and its 8,000 to 12,000 employees in New Mexico.
As with all businesses, the film industry is looking for stability and predictability. If no further changes are made, industry insiders say New Mexico should be fine. But if continued efforts are made to cut incentives, we may go downhill.
The numerous states offering film incentives are scratching their heads trying to figure out where the break even point is on incentives. Our legislature proposed a study, which the governor vetoed, saying she would do it herself. We’ll see how that works out.

Jay Miller
 insidethecapitol@hotmail.com.