Morales, Barela spar at LFC meeting

-A A +A
By Harold Morgan

Conflict and happiness came to the Legislative Finance Committee meeting Nov. 20 in Santa Fe. Department budgets for the year ending June 30, 2015, were the agenda. The LFC builds a budget, as does the executive branch.
The Economic Development Department and Secretary Jon Barela brought conflict. Irrepressible Tourism Secretary Monique Jacobson brought joy, requesting a $2.5 million ad budget increase, which she may get, LFC members indicated.
Barela handed out a 24-page, printed PowerPoint document. He alternately called the pages “foils” or “slides,” gaining this column’s low-level jargon obscuration award. The presentation opened with a fudge of numbers, continued the administration’s whining about federal spending here (What are we supposed to do, Jon, close the national laboratories, WIPP and White Sands?) and peaked with an error of fact when Barela incorrectly said, “Mexico is our largest trading partner.”
Last time I looked, not that long ago, Israel was our largest trading partner due mostly to Intel sending stuff to Intel facilities in Israel. Mexico is second.
The number fudge occurred early. Barela said the private sector growth of 10,000 wage jobs from August 2012 to August 2013, of which he was proud, was “offset by the loss of 3,100 jobs in the government sector,” many of which were federal. True enough, “many,” whatever that means, of the job losses were federal, 1,400 to be exact, according to the Department of Workforce Solutions.
But even more, 600 more than many, were in local government, down 2,000 for the year. October numbers, released by DWS on Nov. 22, showed much slower growth. See capitolreportnm.blogspot.com for a summary.
As we consider the impact of government on our society, we should remember the relative impact. Local government is the biggest government employer with 99,100 jobs in August. State government follows with 55,400. State government, which provides Barela’s paycheck, is hiring, adding 300 jobs year over year. Economic Development is hiring eight people, Barela said.
Then we find the feds with 31,800. The laboratories and the military aren’t in the federal number. Add them and my guess is that the federal total would still be well short of the local total. No one knows, and we should know. Understanding comes from better information.
Sen. Howie Morales, Silver City Democrat and candidate for governor, injected energy with a lengthy questioning of Barela. Morales, wearing a black shirt as he worked over Barela, brought to mind Paladin, the black-clad hero of the 1950s television series, “Have Gun Will Travel.” “The paladins… were the foremost warriors of Charlemagne’s court,” according to Wikipedia.
A big problem for Morales was the administration’s claimed connection between the much trumpeted 2013 tax package and jobs created, a reasonable topic, I think. Barela claimed 600 jobs, but was unable to provide specifics, even after referring to the list in his handout of “major company announcements.”
After some back and forth, Barela, exasperated, said to Morales, “I hope you’re not questioning the integrity and honesty of my answer.” Rep. Lucky Varela, Santa Fe Democrat and LFC chair, cut things off with a wave of his hand.
Potential department critics turned down two other rhetorical gifts. One was the claim, hardly likely, that EDD programs created (all by their lonesomes, that is) 3,093 jobs in FY 13.
The second was Barela citing a proud moment demonstrating the success of the 2013 tax package. New Mexico “made the list for consideration” of a new plant location by a large electronics firm, he said. But we didn’t make the final list. That means the tax package moved the state from not being in the game to not being good enough. An accomplishment, for sure.