Photo Credit: Joe Gratz cc

Lawsuit: Company managing NM welfare program told employees to commit fraud

A month after five state of New Mexico employees testified in federal court that they were instructed to falsify emergency food aid applications, another lawsuit filed in Las Cruces district court made strikingly similar allegations. But instead of directing her allegations toward state government, Lorraine McCullough directed her allegations toward SL Start and Associates, a private, Washington state-based company that bills itself as a health provider for adults and children with developmental disabilities. That’s because this company is contracted with the state Human Services Department to manage the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF). TANF is the program most commonly called welfare. Locally, the program is called New Mexico Works.

Money flying_sideways

Presidential candidates trailing 2008, 2012 New Mexico fundraising

This year’s presidential candidates are lagging their 2008 and 2012 predecessors in New Mexico fundraising. “If money is a measure of enthusiasm for candidates, then there isn’t any,” said Lonna Atkeson, University of New Mexico political science professor and director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections, and Democracy. To date, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton trails President Barack Obama’s 2012 New Mexico haul. But her gap is much narrower than that of GOP nominee Donald Trump compared with Mitt Romney in 2012 and Sen. John McCain in 2008. And Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, New Mexico’s former governor, trails his own 2012 fundraising within the state significantly.

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Poll: Here’s how voters want lawmakers to fix the budget deficit

Delaying or freezing corporate income tax cuts and across-the-board budget cuts are two of the most popular proposals for bridging the state’s large budget deficit. That comes from a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling for NM Political Report. Respondents were asked to choose from a list of five options for balancing the budget. The options were “Delaying or freezing corporate income tax cuts,” “bringing back taxes on food and medicine,” “increasing the state gasoline tax,” “cutting education spending” and “enacting across-the-board spending cuts.”

After choosing their top choice, respondents were also asked to choose a second-best option from the same list. In both cases, respondents saw delaying incoming corporate income tax cuts delay and enacting across-the-board spending cuts as the two most popular choices.

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Martinez approval rating hits new low

Gov. Susana Martinez’s approval rating now sits at 43 percent, down from a May poll which found her approval rating at 47 percent. Both polls were conducted by Public Policy Polling for NM Political Report. The latest poll shows Martinez’s lowest approval rating in a public poll since first taking office in 2011. And now just as many registered voters don’t approve of her job performance as those who approve. Martinez’s disapproval rating barely changed, from 42 percent in May to 43 percent in August, but her approval rating dropped four percent in the last three months.

Andy Lyman

NM lawmakers grapple with $450+ million deficit

RED RIVER — The state is facing a big hole when it comes to the state budget, lawmakers were told at the latest meeting of the interim Legislative Finance Committee. The projected $325 million deficit for the current year’s budget comes in part because state revenue projections from January were off by more than half a billion dollars. A larger-than-expected downturn in the oil and gas industry made a big part of the decline. This year, the state House of Representatives passed a budget based on the January projections, but the state Senate drastically slashed that budget before sending it back to the House. But even the big cuts in the final budget for this year leave a lot to be done.

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Poll: Clinton leads Trump in NM, Toulouse Oliver leads SOS race

The Democrats running for president and Secretary of State continue to lead in their races, though a third party candidate on the presidential ballot who is familiar to New Mexicans is getting a lot of support. A poll commissioned by NM Political Report and conducted by Public Policy Polling finds Hillary Clinton leading in a four-way race for president with 40 percent support among New Mexico registered voters. Republican candidate Donald Trump trails Clinton with 31 percent of support while Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson gets 16 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein 4 percent. Related: Poll: NM voters support bringing back the death penalty

Only 9 percent of registered voters remain undecided in the presidential race, according to the poll. Johnson is a former two-term governor of New Mexico.