Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Diane Denish - A Campaign Suggestion

For anyone who hasn't noticed, New Mexico will be electing a new governor in November.  Happily, the Republicans won't find it necessary to "unleash" a Rand Paul in order to lose the election -- this high desert state won't require that much more comedy to make a decision.  We can handle the task with what we've got.

However, MeanMesa would like to make a campaign suggestion to Diane Denish, the current Lt. Governor who will be running as the Democratic candidate in the fall.  Here is a short blurb from the Denish campaign literature:

A New Way of Doing Business: Reforming Government to Save Taxpayers an Estimated $450 Million

During these challenging economic times, so many New Mexico families are forced to tighten their belts and do more with less - and Diane Denish believes state government must do the same. As Governor, Diane will immediately implement cost-saving reforms and bring about a new way of doing business in Santa Fe.

Diane has proposed a series of bold reforms to make government more efficient and accountable - saving taxpayers millions of dollars.  Diane would drastically cut the number of political appointees, implement strict accountability measures, consolidate government departments, eliminate at least 4 Cabinet level positions, reform the capital outlay process and institute a culture of customer service in state government. In total, these reforms could save New Mexico taxpayers an estimated $450 million over the next 5 years.

New Way of Doing Business: Reducing political appointees and creating incentives to reduce the state's payroll to save taxpayers millions
As Governor, Diane Denish will take quick and decisive action to end the special breaks and insider deals that continue to exist at the expense of taxpayers.  Nobody will be guaranteed a job and only qualified, dedicated public servants will have a place in a Denish Administration.  Immediately after taking office, Diane would implement the following reforms:
  • Cut political appointments: Denish would cut an additional 100 political appointments (exempt positions), which would return the exempt employees to below 2002 statutorily authorized levels.

    Savings: $8.8 million dollars a year and $44 million over the next 5 years. (Source: State Personnel Office estimate of average employee salary and benefit package calculated at $88,000/yr)

  • One-time voluntary buy-out of public employees: Offer a targeted, one-time voluntary buyout to reduce the size of the state workforce. This targeted effort would focus on employees who are not in high-demand positions or in hard-to-recruit areas in an effort to avoid compromising front-line services to citizens, especially in the area of public safety. Classified employees with more than 5 years of service would be offered a $1,000 incentive for every year of state service that will not exceed $20,000. For example, an employee with 10 years experience would be eligible for a $10,000 one-time incentive when leaving a job. As part of this package, employees would not be eligible to apply for another state job for 3 years and any employee seeking to return to work before the three-year time period would have to pay back the incentive.

    Savings: If just 2% of state employees accept the buy-out, the state could save from $24 to $33 million in the first year and up to $169 million over 5 years. Any employee seeking to return to work before the three year time period would have to pay back the incentive money. (If 500 employees took the bonus for $5,000 it would cost $1 million - 1st year, if 500 took the bonus at $20,000 it would cost $10 million - 1st year)

New Way of Doing Business: Performance Reviews and Accountability

Particularly during these difficult times, there is simply no room for government inefficiency or waste. Diane Denish will require department heads, programs and agencies to meet strict performance standards, and when something is inefficient, it will be eliminated. She firmly believes that government must be accountable - and with today's technology, New Mexico taxpayers should be able to see exactly how their money is being spent in real time, so they can hold their elected officials accountable.  As Governor, Denish would push for the following:
  • Tax credit accountability: Companies that take advantage of tax incentives, rebates and other state benefits should be held accountable for results in the form of real public benefits, such as investment in infrastructure, number of jobs, employment hours, or wage rates in a specific amount of time. Companies who do not meet their commitments should pay back the state and taxpayers. Twenty other states already have such provisions which ensure accountability from private sector entities that utilize public monies.
Saving: The state currently issues roughly $111.2 million a year in tax credits. If after the review, 3 percent of the tax credits did not to lead directly to job creation, the state would save $3.3 million per year or $16.5 million over five years. 
  • Tax credit transparency: We need increased disclosure on who is taking advantage of jobs tax credits and how many jobs are being created as a result of the credits (this information once collected can be placed on the state of New Mexico Sunshine Portal).
  • Sunshine portal implementation and expansion. When Denish signed the Sunshine Portal into law in March 2010, she spearheaded a huge victory for government openness and accountability, but it was only a first step. Now the state's checkbook will be online so taxpayers can see how their money is spent. As Governor, Denish will oversee the implementation of the Sunshine Portal and then push for its expansion so it also includes a statewide See-Click-Fix function where citizens can report waste or issues that need immediate attention.
  • Chief performance and accountability officer: Denish would consolidate all agency inspectors general and fraud and abuse staff in one Office of Government Accountability led by a Chief Performance and Accountability Officer. This person will answer to the Governor and be charged with eliminating fraud, waste and abuse in state government. By taking existing inspector general staff out of their agencies and placing them in an independent office, taxpayers will have an internal watchdog for taxpayer funds that is unbiased and not beholden to departmental personalities or loyalties.

  • Workers compensation reform: Denish would reform the Workers Compensation Administration to allow for a full review of worker's compensation laws and rates, rooting out the inequities that harm New Mexico's employers. For example, worker's compensation rates for office work should not be similar to rates for more dangerous jobs such as oilfield work and construction. Too many small businesses are being taken advantage of by unfair worker's compensation rate structures. Denish would also increase the fraud and abuse investigatory power of the Workman's Compensation Administration.

What is MeanMesa's "campaign suggestion?"

Well, there is one area where New Mexicans would actually like to see a government expansion in Santa Fe.  Yes, as a state, we can probably do just fine with substantially fewer political appointees and poorly defined state agencies, but there is an area where most New Mexicans think that the state government can and should do more.

Hire two dozen professional auditors.

During the swan song of the Richardson government, one cheezy scandal after another has emerged.  Everyone from rural dog catchers to school district administrators seems to have been easily able to walk away with thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or more tax payer dollars and enjoy their ill-gotten gains for months or years before finally being detected.

Granted, the fiscal vampire in New Mexico is squarely based on peccadillos injected into the main legislative budget, and these smaller infractions have not represented the mortal blow here that similar crimes have caused elsewhere.  Nonetheless, these little outrages are the fodder of  some serious electoral discontent.  They are the "flash points" which New Mexico voters struggling to put food on the table or pay rent find the most egregious and insulting.

So, solve it.

This is an excellent place to assign state resources ($) and a great plank for a state campaign platform.  Further, not too far below the ruffled feathers concerning the money is the questionable quality of candidates the state Democratic party is encouraging to run for office.  After all, most of these petty thieves had to get selected and elected at some point in the past.

That selection and election process originates in the state Democratic party.  If we want New Mexicans to be comfortable and confident of their elected officials, we must consider providing higher quality choices when it comes to ballot time.

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