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New session, new blog


For reasons too technical to get into here, I've got a new blog. Please read it here.
Thanks.

More pay to play allegations


The latest: here.

And, just when you thought there were no more scandals to be had, read this. 

Gov: 2009 is 'Year of Fiscal Restraint'

Gov. Bill Richardson at a press conference just now said this session is the Year of Fiscal Restraint. Now there's a title that's catchy. . .

The governor outlined his budget plan, which includes:
cuts to agencies of $108 million
increased tax collection of $79 million
de-authorization of capital outlay projects to the tune of $263 million
other one-time cuts totaling $48 million

For a total of $498 million in cuts and improved tax collections.

“My budget plan does not increase taxes; leaves essential services for New Mexicans intact; and keeps substantial and responsible cash reserves to protect us against further shortfalls,” Richardson said in a statement.

At the same time, though, he said it's "going to be a tough session."

Nothing could be more true. The battle has only begun over what will be cut and what won't, and it's not going to be pretty.

P.S. Here's a look at the LFC's budget plan.

Tweet, tweet

 So, yea we've joined the ranks of those who twitter. What's that, you ask? It's a way to receive short updates on local news. (Twitter can be used for short updates on anything, really, but I figured you might be more interested in local news updates than say, whether I'm at the grocery store or the park.) The tweets, as the entries are known, are like blog entries, but even shorter. And you can sign up to get the updates on your phone or e-mail. So you can skip your computer and still stay in touch.

It's free to sign up on our page.

I'll still be blogging on the Legislature and other goings on in state government. But look to twitter as well for the latest news. Because I can update our twitter page from my phone, I will be sending updates from committee hearings or press conferences or where ever I find myself covering news. . .



Abq Journal scaling back, announces layoffs


There's more bad news on the newspaper front in New Mexico. The Albuquerque Journal says it is scaling back its distribution area. The paper also on Wednesday night and this morning laid off a few people and is set to lay off more today. More news when it becomes available.

Update, 3:57

Here's the official word from the Journal. No real specifics in the post, however, apart from saying that fewer than 10 people were let go from the newsroom. The Associated Press, however, is reporting that the cuts were in several editorial departments in Albuquerque in Santa Fe. In addition, the AP says the Albuquerque Publishing Company laid off people in the circulation, advertising, production and other departments, but the company didn't disclose the number.

Let's hope the Journal is able to continue to dedicate the same number of people it has in the past to cover the Legislature and state government, especially given the current situation with Gov. Bill Richardson. Because with something like this, the more reporters the better.

Update, 9:30 a.m. Friday
Here's our story on the layoffs.

New Mexico crawling with FBI agents


Well apparently at least enough agents on recent investigation assignments to bump into each other, according to this story and the story it links to.

With so many agents in town, does this mean lodgers tax revenue will be up this quarter for Albuquerque and Santa Fe? Let's hope, because we haven't seen many tourists lately. . .

Photo by Kate Nash
Richardson at Monday's press conference talking about his decision to withdraw as Commerce secretary.


 It hasn't been since he was a presidential contender that Gov. Bill Richardson has gotten this much media attention. But his decision to withdraw as Commerce Secretary has the national scribes busy again on this beat.

First up, Politico.com's Roger Simon says the Richardson situation is part of Team Obama's "drama" here. Obama Drama. Too bad nothing rhymes with Richardson. Hmm.

The Seattle Times says Richardson "and his cohorts have the grave misfortune to be in the orbit of a crime that has raised nationwide suspicions of "pay to play" practices in municipal bond markets" here.

Next,  U.S. News and World report has a piece here by Bonnie Erbe, saying Obama should give the post to Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. This piece is interesting, not just because it comes up with another name for the Commerce post, but in part because it's written by someone who covered Richardson in Congress in the late 1980s.

Then, there's this hit by the Huffington Post. Drink another cup of coffee first, because you'll have to sort through all the links from the piece, and there are plenty. A few, however, are a little out there.

Just when you thought New Mexico had dropped off the radar screen again. . . 
Gov. Bill Richardson on Monday morning say he “was hurting” over his decision to withdraw as President-elect Obama’s Commerce Department secretary and maintained he’d done nothing wrong.

“While this decision was a difficult one, I think it is the right thing to do. I made the decision over the weekend after exploring my options,” he said at a Capitol news conference.

Richardson took a handful of questions from reporters but wouldn’t comment on an ongoing federal investigation of a company that did business with the state.

He reiterated he’s done nothing wrong.

“I have faith in the criminal justice process, and we must allow it to run its course,” he said. I also don’t want to jeopardize the process by commenting on it today,” Richardson said.

Richardson answered a few questions, but declined to say whether he has a lawyer during the less-than-seven-minute press conferece.

The governor tried hard to seem jovial at the press conference, twice telling reporters that he was sorry he ruined our Sunday. . .

Update, 12:18 a.m.

Hear Richardson's press conference here.

An Obama official worked Sunday to downplay Gov. Bill Richardson's withdrawal as Commerce Secretary, saying it wasn't as if the country's Treasury Secretary had withdrawn.

Here's  that story  from Politico.com. Also, this story from Political Punch suggests Richardson wasn't forthcoming to Obama with information about the investigation. . . 

So what now for Santa Fe? Look for fallout at the Capitol and all across state government as plans get changed -- again -- before one of the most important legislative sessions. More on the changes here.

Here's what I've been able to learn so far.

And here's the text of statements from Gov. Bill Richardson and President-elect Barack Obama:


STATEMENT OF PRESIDENT ELECT BARACK OBAMA
It is with deep regret that I accept Governor Bill Richardson's decision
to withdraw his name for nomination as the next Secretary of
Commerce.Governor Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would
have brought to the job of Commerce Secretary and our economic team
great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal
and state office. It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation
first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet in
order to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this
critical time. Although we must move quickly to fill the void left by
Governor Richardson's decision, I look forward to his future service to
our country and in my administration.
 
STATEMENT OF GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON
For nearly three decades, I have been honored to serve my state and our
nation in Congress, at the U.N., as Secretary of Energy and as governor.
So when the President-elect asked me to serve as Secretary of Commerce,
I felt a duty to answer the call. I felt that duty particularly because
America is facing such extraordinary economic challenges.  The
Department of Commerce must play an important role in solving them by
helping to grow the new jobs and businesses America so badly needs.

It is also because of that sense of urgency about the work of the
Commerce Department that I have asked the President-elect not to move
forward with my nomination at this time. I do so with great sorrow.  But
a pending investigation of a company that has done business with New
Mexico state government promises to extend for several weeks or,
perhaps, even months.

Let me say unequivocally that I and my administration have acted
properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that
fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would
have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process. Given the
gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing, I could not in
good conscience ask the President-elect and his administration to delay
for one day the important work that needs to be done.

So, for now, I will remain in the job I love, Governor of New Mexico,
and will continue to work every day, with Lieutenant Governor Diane
Denish, to make a positive difference in the lives of New Mexicans.  I
believe she will be a terrific governor in the future. I appreciate the
confidence President-elect Obama has shown in me, and value our
friendship and working partnership.  I told him that I am eager to serve
in the future in any way he deems useful.  And like all Americans, I
pray for his success and the success of our beloved country.

Here's the MSNBC story.

Update, 3:40 p.m.

Here's what Lt. Gov. Diane Denish has to say on the day's news.

"Governor Richardson postponed taking a position in the administration to ensure that President Obama and the American people face no delays in getting to work to fix our ailing economy, and the President-elect said he looks forward to Governor Richardson joining his administration in the days ahead," she said in a statement.  "In the meantime, Governor Richardson and I will work together, as we have over the last six years, to tackle challenges at home, to craft a workable budget with the legislature and to strengthen our economy to make sure that every New Mexico family has the opportunity to succeed."