Candidates’ positions are as thin as the economy

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By Sherry Robinson

A water expert I know complained last week that the candidates for governor haven’t said a word about water, one of the state’s biggest issues. But you can name about any subject and come to the same conclusion.

Instead, the candidates have chosen to wrangle over perverts and who’s running the dirtier campaign. It’s surprising that Diane Denish would start with crime, which is Martinez’s strength, instead of her own, which is business and the economy.

In search of substance, I went to the candidates’ Web sites to get their thoughts on the economy, a subject voters actually want to hear about.

Here’s where they agree: Permitting and licensing should be more customer-friendly, and they would improve state government loan programs to small business.

At susanamartinez2010.com you’ll have to wade through a lot of ranting before you get to her proposals. (Note to Susana Martinez’s communications people: Come to the point!) Then you’ll find a mixed bag of good ideas, conservative boilerplate, and oddball notions that reveal she has a few things to learn.

Here’s the best from the Republican candidate: Martinez would reduce or eliminate many exempt positions in state government and rely more on merit, qualification and experience (hear, hear!), create an online checkbook where voters can access state spending records in real-time, reform the capital outlay program, eliminate the practice of using “finder’s fees” and contracting consultants by state contractors, improve the state procurement Web site and post state contracts online immediately after they’re awarded.

If she can reform capital outlay, she deserves a statue in the park.

Here’s the boilerplate: She would reduce taxes, oppose raising taxes to solve the budget problems, get spending in line with revenues, tighten belts, eliminate programs that don’t work and bolster programs that do and pass tort reform.

Here’s the low end of the learning curve: She proposes to “put money away in a rainy-day fund for down economic times.” We already do this. To be more competitive, “we must reform New Mexico’s tax structure by identifying and eliminating taxes that stifle job growth.” Good luck with that. Previous administrations under both parties have tried and failed. She mentions that New Mexico is one of only six states that tax services. By this she means the gross receipts tax, but obviously doesn’t understand the state’s tax structure. Martinez would provide tax credits for companies “for helping stimulate our economy.” We have a raft of such credits, and the concern now is whether they’re working. She would give New Mexico businesses an advantage in state contracting. We already do but need to tighten the rules.

At dianedenish.com, there’s no ranting but there is fluff. Wade through it to learn that the Democratic candidate spearheaded the creation of the New Mexico Small Business Investment Corp., which has “helped more than 1,600 New Mexico small businesses get the capital investment or equity investment they need to get started and grow.” For her work on behalf of small business, she was named the Financial Services Champion of the Year in 2008 by the Small Business Administration.

Denish also talks about business climate. Government regulation should be predictable, consistent and fair.  “Businesses should know how long a permitting process, application or licensing process will take, have access to information about the status of the process, and most importantly be treated like customers.”

In April, Denish rolled out her small business and rural economic development plan. It would increase access to capital, provide a $2,500 small business job-creation tax credit, cut red tape, create a loan guarantee program to encourage community banks to support local businesses, establish an online One-Stop-Shop for businesses and start a farm-to-table plan to encourage institutional use of New Mexico agricultural products.

Both sites could beef up their economy pieces, but these days it’s dangerous to promise too much.

Sherry Robinson is a syndicated columnist.

© New Mexico News Services 2010