Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: Gov. Candidates Talk Issues

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 8, 2010

I hope I don’t jinx this by writing about it, but it’s been more than three weeks since either gubernatorial candidate launched any new attack ads on television.

But as the talk about child molesters, crime statistics and bad jokes in e-mails has subsided, both Republican Susana Martinez and Democrat Diane Denish actually are talking about meat-and-potatoes issues.

Earlier this week, Martinez released her economic plan. In response, the Denish campaign quickly reminded reporters that Denish had previously released a couple of sets of economic proposals, one called a “small business and rural job creation” plan, the other a “competitive workplace” plan.

Here’s some highlights of both candidates’ plans.

Martinez’s plan: The Republican’s plan is built upon traditional GOP ideas. In a nutshell: lower taxes, fewer regulations on business and less government spending. Martinez calls for eliminating many “exempt” or political positions in state government — an idea popular among many legislators, who voted this year for such cuts. But she also wants to reform the capital-outlay system — which is something Gov. Bill Richardson called for but lawmakers opposed.
Martinez would “reform education,” but she hasn’t yet spelled out how.

To help revive the energy industry, Martinez wants to reverse the “pit rule” — i.e. environmental standards for oil and gas production — and to encourage energy producers to invest in new technology. She also said the state should oppose cap-and-trade legislation (economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emission of pollutants.)

Fighting corruption is a big part of Martinez’s economic plan. She calls for revamping ethics laws, though she doesn’t specify how. She says she’d make the procurement process more transparent and outlaw finder’s fees for state contractors. The State Investment Council adopted such a rule last year, in response to the scandals erupting around at least one politically connected third-party marketer who made millions in finder’s fees.

Martinez’s plan also calls for “real time” reporting of campaign finance and lobbyist disclosure data. And here’s one I hadn’t heard before that sounds interesting: Random audits of political campaigns. It’s not clear how this would be accomplished, but the idea deserves exploring.
Diane Denish
Denish’s plan: Like Martinez, Denish says she’ll make it easier for small businesses to get loans. Denish said she’d expand the micro-lending program through the Small Business Investment Corp. She’d also create an online “clearing house” to connect lenders and businesses. The site also would contain information about tax credits.

Speaking of tax credits, Denish’s plan calls for a state tax credit of $2,500 for each job created in New Mexico during the 2011 calendar year. (This would be for businesses with 100 employees or fewer.) She’d create a position of ombudsman to advocate for small businesses and would provide a one-stop shop for new business owners to get all the paperwork, licenses and permits they need from the state in one place.

To help farmers, she’d require state schools, prisons and hospitals to buy more produce from New Mexico growers. Denish says the state should do more to support local farmers markets.

As for creating a more competitive workforce, Denish said she’d strengthen community colleges and that the state should provide scholarships for any high-school graduate who wants to attend a state community college to work toward a degree in a “high demand” career. (The plan doesn’t explain how to pay for these scholarships.) Community colleges, she says, “must have short-term, clear-cut programs that lead a student directly to job opportunities, or prepare them for a four-year degree."

I’ve left a lot out from both candidates. You can find the original documents on all these posted in a convenient package on this blog. CLICK HERE