New Mexicans lose at special session

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It’s been the session before the session. The partisan bickering before more partisan bickering. If you haven’t gotten enough of the week-long-and-counting special session, you need only wait until Jan. 18 for two month’s worth. Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking at the Santa Fe Roundhouse and the money drips away ($50,000 a day) like the $19.4 trillion and rising U.S. debt (about $60,000 per U.S. citizen).

Before the special session began Sept. 30, it was days and days of lead up with the “will she or won’t she?” game starring Gov. Susana Martinez. Speculation, as if lawmakers and New Mexicans didn’t already know the budget crisis was at a tipping point — a $600 million shortfall. A waiting game, as if the months upon months of observing a precarious oil and gas industry just suddenly became an issue.

There was no “will they or won’t they?” when Los Lunas landed its Facebook project. There’s never been a greater group hyperventilation and motivation among politicians from Las Cruces to Raton to push and shove their way to take credit for the project that will bring 30 to 50 permanent jobs to the state. Yes, the prospect of a few dozen jobs has become seductive enough for New Mexico politicians to trample over each other for a slice of the spotlight.

Not so seductive is the state budget – real funds that affect real people on a day-to-day basis. Finally, Martinez put to rest whether there would be a special session. But it would be one that would also focus on ramming through a death penalty bill and would be one that tossed around other not-well-thought-out crime-related bills to muddle things up. Add a Farmington Republican-sponsored bill that would defer film production tax credits for a year — also a move with consequences that haven’t been thought out.

The Roundhouse games have consequences for Taos County. Infrastructure projects on the chopping block include work at the Taos Regional Airport, and in Questa, a water rights purchase and other water, well and storage projects targeted to be cut. Even a parking lot project at the Talpa Community Center and $25,000 in renovations at Taos Plaza. About $216,000 in all. And the impending budget cuts include higher education slashes that could affect UNM-Taos, and public health programs that are already on shoestring budgets across the state.

While some lawmakers have worked earnestly and thoughtfully, House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, maybe said it best by describing emotions in the House as frayed by election-season politicking.

Republicans and Democrats are mired in the so predictable “we’re the responsible ones, not them,” blame game, finger-pointing, for what should happen or shouldn’t happen. From presidential politics to state-level sparring, no matter how important the issue, it’s all about posturing, press conferences and email blasts. It’s no wonder voters have become so apathetic.

There’s a Republican-controlled House in Santa Fe and a Democrat-controlled Senate. But the checks and balances have become little more than digging in at the expense of citizens and a healthy democracy.

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