State officials have to come up with nearly $1 billion in budget savings over the next year and a half. In this year's legislative session, which kicked off Jan. 20, New Mexico senators, representatives and Gov. Bill Richardson will be wrangling with each other regarding spending cuts and tax measures [Cover story, Jan. 14: "Crank It Up!"].
Budget balancing is an unrelenting pain, the legislative equivalent of fibromyalgia. We wanted to help. So we pored over hundreds of pages of state contracts, operating budgets and capital—ie, construction—projects to come up with a list of dubious expenditures that our elected leaders may not have considered for cutting.
Of course, nothing is more mind-numbing than a newspaper budget story. So we used our findings to create SFR's New Mexico Budget Quiz.
Ready? Sharpen your axes.
1. How much spending has the state Purchasing Division approved on equipment to demonstrate proper condom use in public classrooms?
a. 19 cents per banana from Trader Joe's on Cordova Road.
b. $4.95 per "wooden penis demo model" from Ansell Healthcare Products of Palatine, Ill.
c. $60 per Freshstub Magnum 7-inch silicone dildo from Earth Erotics of Portland, Ore.
2. What's the cost of a five-day "Imagine 21" leadership training course, held by the Seattle-based Pacific Institute, for which the state has an ongoing contract?
3. Which noteworthy state officials have taken Pacific Institute Training courses, according to the Institute's Web site?
a. Outgoing Department of Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught
b. Former Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Sr.
c. Gov. Bill Richardson
4. The state is prepared to spend $2.8 million for the "transportation of government officials." What is this figure intended to buy?
a. 35 armored Toyota Land Cruisers from First Defense International of Orange County, Calif.
b. One Beechcraft King Air turboprop aircraft, or equivalent
c. A full year of travel for state employees on Southwest Airlines
5. New Mexico's $408,000-a-year Martin Luther King Jr. State Commission holds an annual youth conference in Albuquerque. Last year, the conference had record attendance. How many people showed up?
6. The MLKSC's achievements also include:
a. Sponsoring a trip to Atlanta for 25 youth
b. Holding 17 holiday commemorations and 10 youth anti-violence workshops a year
c. Printing the "I Have A Dream" speech in English and Spanish
d. Promoting "Dr. King's principles of nonviolence"
e. All of the above
7. So much for those nonviolent principles: Which piece of law enforcement gear has the highest state-negotiated purchase price, at $1,228?
a. Tactical Assault model Kevlar vest
b. Taser X-26 with integrated laser sight
c. AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle
8. Technical Resource Management of Flagstaff, Ariz. charges the state of New Mexico $50 an hour to do what?
a. Provide "resource management services"
b. Provide on-site customer service for computer problems
c. Pick up the telephone to defend a positive drug-screening test result
9. Which capital projects approved by the New Mexico Legislature in 2008 have yet to get off the ground?
a. $80,000 for a "patriotism monument" at Amy Biehl High School in Albuquerque
b. $45,000 for a "touchscreen kiosk directory" at the Veterans Park and Memorial in Gallup
c. $309,000 for a penguin exhibit at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque
d. All of the above
10. The Education Department's budget for school surveillance cameras could pay for how many $40,000-a-year teachers?
11. Which state expenditures approved for Albuquerque public schools might be better spent on…perhaps, textbooks?
a. $25,000 to "purchase chairs for teachers" at Hubert H Humphrey Elementary School, "home of the Hawks"
b. $40,000 to "purchase and install window blinds" at Duranes Elementary School, "home of the Unicorns"
c. $8,500 for videoconferencing equipment at Sombra Del Monte Elementary School. Slogan: "Celebrating learning in the shadow of the Sandias."
d. All of the above
7: a (The Taser X-26 is $800, the AR-15 is $730)
11: a and c (Bright sunlight is deadly to unicorns.)