In a blog post on the conservative New Mexico Watchdog website, contributor Brigette Russell used this column as evidence that "cynicism is the order of the day" regarding Gov. Susana Martinez, as well as the liberal position that Republicans parrot talking points and fall back on a shared playbook, rather than think for themselves.
Russell claims I intentionally portrayed Martinez as "a Borg drone, an unthinking tool of the nefarious right-wing hive mind." In my defense—well, actually, I have no defense. It's true. Although I think accusing Republicans of having a "hive mind" is an insult to bees, and "mind" is a dangerously generous word to use in association with any group that counts the tea party as its constituents, it's true that I don't think there's any "there" there when it comes to the notion of independent motivation for corporate stoogedom.
Put aside the current issue of Current Biology, which confirms last year's University College London study demonstrating that people who identify themselves as liberal show physical characteristics in the brain that allow them to better process uncertainty and complexity. Let's just look at the evidence in front of our eyes.
Despite analysis by numerous nonpartisan groups on the negative impact federal budget cuts will likely have on state and municipal budgets nationwide, Republican governors such as Martinez, yes, parrot national conservative priorities that refuse tax increases on wealthy citizens and corporate entities, restrict entrepreneurial innovation outside of existing, extractive industries and slash state resources that could bulwark residents against evaporating federal services.
When presented with the choice of signing into law a bill mandating assessment of the film production tax credit or a different bill mandating assessment of all credits, deductions and exemptions, including film production, Martinez chose the former. Most states now require an annual report quantifying credits, deductions and exemptions. This allows both citizens and lawmakers to see what is really happening fiscally, rather than rely on innuendo and special-interest, partisan opinion. But Martinez balked. What kind of responsible government declines to mandate such a useful tool? Yes, we need to objectively understand the impacts—beneficial or otherwise—of film production credits. Shouldn't we have the same understanding for every industry receiving special considerations?
Martinez claims her office will take the initiative to conduct just such a study, but without the weight of legislative obligation behind it. What is the motivation for having the assessment—if it truly does come to pass—run from the Governor's Office rather than directly from the Taxation and Revenue Department? Could it be to position and politicize certain giveaways over others?
I can believe former Gov. Bill Richardson refused to sign into law essentially the same bill Martinez ignored because he feared giveaways to powerful special interests would become transparent.
The upside to crushing budgetary problems is, of course, the opportunity to streamline and cut waste. But Republicans appear dead set on pursuing political goals rather than genuine fiscal responsibility. Meanwhile, Democrats are either too lazy and entrenched to manifest meaningful change, or are vilified for attempting to do so responsibly.
Take the recent push to increase City of Santa Fe property taxes. This proposal now appears waylaid by a maneuver to convert funds from the wastewater enterprise account. Using the wastewater funds appears to be a smart move—but it won't solve long-term problems. The bald fact is that property taxes have been too low for decades. Yet City Councilor Chris Calvert, who originally co-sponsored the tax hike, waffled like a Belgian after his constituents threatened a recall petition. Now, he is pretending that he never really thought looking at property taxes was a good idea.
But it's still going to be necessary down the line—and the sooner the better. Opponents of the modest increase say they want government to cut more fat and waste before putting any additional pinch on homeowners. News flash: We need to do that in addition to transferring wastewater funds and raising taxes, not instead of.
At the end of the day, we're all responsible for deciding what kind of a society we want to live in and how to manage our collective fiscal house in order to achieve it. Do we want to empower people on the ground who are thinking about the particular needs and goals of our communities? Or do we want to encourage the opaque, one-size-fits-all (so long as you're wealthy) solution doled out by politicians who refuse to let us see the truth behind the fiction?
Follow Zane's World on Twitter: @Zanes_World