Incoming lieutenant governor promises accessibility

Kevin Wilson

By Kevin Wilson

Freedom New Mexico

kwilson@cnjonline.com

In the face of promises that could prove daunting come 2011, New Mexico’s next lieutenant governor made one he hoped would be easier to keep.

Sanchez, while stopping in Clovis Thursday morning on a statewide listening tour, said he wants to be the most accessible lieutenant governor New Mexico has had.

“That’s my commitment and promise,” Sanchez said.

The former legislator was asked early on how the administration of Gov.-Elect Susana Martinez was going to solve the state’s upcoming deficit, estimated at $450 million, while upholding campaign promises to neither cut education or Medicare nor raise taxes.

Sanchez said the Legislature had some tough work ahead, as did the Martinez administration, but he didn’t want to speak for either. He did say items like the film production tax credit and tourism advertising would be studied, and kept if they are fiscally reasonable.

In his opinion, Sanchez said, tourism was a good investment because every $1 spent in tourism advertising brings back $40 from out-of-state visitors. As far as the film credit, he said a task force may be created to see if the film tax credit is a benefit.

Following the meeting, he reiterated an unwillingness to say which, if any, programs or tax credits could be eliminated.

“Until we have the opportunity to be sworn in,” Sanchez said, “we’re going to hold off on specifics.”

He said things he could commit to were:

• Scaling back New Mexico’s “pit rule,” which requires that drilling operations follow specific procedures to ensure that groundwater doesn’t become contaminated by drilling operations. Sanchez calls it unnecessary government regulation that makes New Mexico less attractive to oil and gas producers.

• Finding ways to repeal cap and trade, which requires industries to cap emission allowances and lets industries below the emission maximum sell their emission credits.

“The Legislature did not support cap and trade, or cap and tax,” Sanchez said. “Gov. Martinez is in clear opposition of cap and tax, and they are looking into every legal opportunity (to repeal it).”

• Streamlining state government. He said regulations often did not follow a common sense approach and permitting processes made it too tough for businesses to start up.

Sanchez felt small businesses were the best way to grow state revenues, by creating more jobs and more tax revenues.

There are 40,000 small businesses in New Mexico, Sanchez said. Find a way to let each of those businesses add one job, and 40,000 fewer people are out of work.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield and City Manager Joe Thomas asked to preserve “hold harmless” legislation, meaning measures would stay in place to make up lost gross receipt tax revenues resulting from exempting most food and medical services.

Losing the status could cost the city between $2.5 million and $3 million. Sanchez said he would do what he could to support municipalities in that respect.

Suggestions included keeping school construction projects away from falling under the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires government contractors to pay construction workers the local prevailing wage.

Gene Hendricks of Clovis suggested New Mexico become a “right to work” state, meaning labor membership or union dues could not be a condition of employment, before or after hiring.

Hendricks also asked Sanchez how the state could fix the deficit while keeping campaign promises, and expected the answer he got.

“I think he had to dance around a little,” Hendricks said, “because the Legislature’s going to be the one that write the policies.”

Hendricks is concerned that the obvious taxes won’t be touched, but hikes on various permits and licenses would be a back-door approach.

“Call it what you will, it’s still a tax,” Hendricks said. “We’re going to have to make revenue somehow.”

Sanchez said he planned a return to Clovis following the legislative session to report on the work done.