Martinez gets mixed grades

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Governor’s first 100 days: Smart moves and rookie moves

By Sherry Robinson

Gov. Susana Martinez entered a room packed with Navajo leaders from New Mexico, her first such meeting.
As each person spoke about needs, the governor took notes. She listened, she was gracious, and her visitors left feeling they were heard.
I give the new governor an A for finessing the meeting alone, with no underling to take notes. Imagine her male predecessors doing that!
Martinez has gotten through her first 100 days with a few wins, a few losses and a few questionable decisions.
Her report card would include most of the letters, plus “needs improvement.”
Let’s begin with the A’s. While Martinez wasn’t a commanding presence during her first legislative session, her message certainly was.
No New Taxes resonated through the session, and even though it meant brutal decision making, the mandate stuck. Good thing. As employers struggle to emerge from the recession, a heavier tax burden would only delay our recovery.
It’s also fine that she didn’t hand legislators a long to-do list, as Gov. Bill Richardson always did.
The budget alone devoured weeks, and there was plenty more to think about. Martinez gets a B for her appointees, who are mostly competent professionals. Despite the fuss over Hanna Skandera’s credentials, we should give the education nominee a chance. The one dud was Harrison Schmitt, although a second dud is shaping up.
Regulatory and Licensing Superintendent J. Dee Dennis Jr. fired Bill Verant, the state’s respected chief banking regulator for 16 years.
We now have no experienced financial regulators and nobody standing between community banks and federal regulators, who can be capricious.
In getting her initiatives passed, Martinez should get a D, but it’s her first session, so we’re grading on a curve, and we’ll give her a C.
Katie’s Law and letter grades for schools passed.
The governor gets credit for compromising on film incentives – going from a percentage reduction to a cap the industry can probably live with. The locomotive fuel tax exemption she claims would have passed with or without Martinez’s support.
Driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. She needs to learn some vocabulary words: “negotiate” and “persuade.”
Instead, she resorted to the despised robo call and amateurish filming of floor speeches that appeared on the governor’s website. Rookie move.
In an already tense session, it added a layer of acrimony. Martinez walked away from government restructuring, another campaign promise.
She didn’t support proposals drafted by a legislative interim committee, some of her appointees said they wanted time to study them, but then blamed lawmakers for the failure.
This was the governor saying the dog ate her homework.
She gets another C on her vetoes. She wasn’t reckless and haphazard like Gary Johnson or vindictive like Richardson.
At times, we could see the legal mind in her vetoes. But any bill with a whiff of taxes or fees drew a veto, even if it simply corrected language in existing law. Because she doesn’t understand public finance, she’ll be surprised at the unintended consequences.   
In speech and rhetoric, Martinez gets an F. Out of ignorance or political spin (or campaign fodder), she says film incentives “subsidize Hollywood.”
If that’s true, then Martinez’s prized tax exemption for Union Pacific subsidizes railroads.
Same with “unemployment taxes.” Unemployment is insurance; employers pay premiums into a fund that’s skidding toward insolvency.
You will never hear the business community say to government, “Please take our money,” but two major business groups supported an increase in unemployment premiums to stave off a bigger increase later on.
So we have the spectacle of a Republican thumbing her nose at business constituents – people who create jobs.
Her Achilles heel will be her inexperience in all things economic.
If you think these grades are subjective and unfair, you might understand why educators feel the same way about grades for schools.    

Sherry Robinson
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