Proposed, sweeping and dramatic changes to a decades-old federal food aid program could have major negative impacts on many impoverished New Mexicans who rely on the program. Donald Trump’s administration proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as food stamps, in his most recent budget recommendation. The proposal included providing food boxes to those who qualify for the program while slashing the amount of money the federal government spends by 30 percent over ten years. All of this would likely result in fewer people receiving fewer benefits through the program. While the state splits the administrative costs of the program with the federal government, the federal government provides funding for the SNAP benefits New Mexicans receive.
After state and U.S. lawmakers called an editorial cartoon in the state’s largest newspaper racist and offensive, the editor-in-chief of the Albuquerque Journal issued an apology. In a statement, Karen Moses apologized for upsetting readers. “In hindsight, instead of generating debate, this cartoon only inflamed emotions,” according to Moses’s statement posted on the paper’s website Thursday. “This was not the intent, and for that, the Journal apologizes.”
Moses also said the cartoon does not reflect the position of the Journal. The Journal’s reporters, who work separately from the editorial board, covered the controversy in the paper’s Thursday edition.
Democrats in the New Mexico congressional delegation slammed the release of a memo by House Intelligence Committee Republicans, saying the document was partisan and inaccurate. The FBI urged Congress to not release the memo before President Donald Trump allowed its release. The memo itself likely will not be a smoking gun to end the investigation into the Trump presidential campaign, as some supporters had hoped. Indeed, it confirmed that the FBI began investigating Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos well before the U.S. government saw the Steele Dossier. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee crafted their own memo, which they wish to release.
Oil and gas industry revenues pay a huge share of the money that goes into the state budget. And lobbyists for big oil companies pay a huge amount of campaign contributions to New Mexico politicians. An analysis of lobbyist expense reports filed in recent days with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office shows oil companies dominate the list of the largest donors to campaigns and political committees since last October. By far the biggest contributor among lobbyists in the new batch of reports was the Austin, Texas-based Stephen Perry, Chevron USA’s state government affairs manager for Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Perry listed $183,250 in contributions.
Two election analysts say that New Mexico’s gubernatorial election is among the most-likely in the nation to switch parties. Politico and The Washington Post each recently highlighted the top ten gubernatorial races to watch. New Mexico ranked second for Politico and first for the Post. Incumbent governor Susana Martinez, a Republican, is term-limited and cannot run for a third consecutive term. She leaves office with low popularity and her party faces a headwind in the first general elections after the election of Donald Trump.
A state investigation prompted by a congressional panel and anti-abortion activists found no criminal wrongdoing by Southwestern Women’s Options (SWWO) or the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center over fetal tissue donations. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas sent letters to the members of the House Select Panel on Infant Lives, including chairwoman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee. Blackburn complained to Balderas last June that SWWO appeared to have violated two state laws: The Jonathan Spradling Revised Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, or Spradling Act, and the Maternal, Fetal and Infant Experimentation Act (MFIEA). After its months-long investigation, the Attorney General’s office said donations from SWWO to UNM did not violate either law. “We are pleased that the New Mexico Attorney General confirmed that the University of New Mexico did not violate any state laws,” UNM Health Sciences Center spokeswoman Alex Sanchez told NM Political Report in a statement.
If Congress fails to reauthorize a popular health insurance program, it will cost the state big money. But unlike in some other states, New Mexico’s children won’t lose health insurance. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, lapsed on Sept. 30. Since then, Congress has failed to agree on renewing the federally-funded program.
The tax bill Congress is considering could blow up New Mexico’s budget—as early as next year. New Mexico Senate Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and House Appropriations and Finance Committee chair Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, sounded the alarm with a letter to members of the congressional delegation and Gov. Susana Martinez. The two wrote the state could lose nearly $600 million in federal funding in the coming year, including over $430 million in federal mineral leasing payments. This is money the federal government pays to states for oil and gas drilling and coal mining on federal lands within their borders. “Loss of FML revenues, which primarily fund public education in New Mexico, would have a devastating impact on the state’s budget and would wipe out the reserves our state has struggled to rebuild,” the two legislators wrote.
A federal judge said U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce can use money raised for federal office in his campaign for governor, giving his campaign a big boost. The court order means that Pearce’s campaign coffers will grow by nearly $1 million, perhaps putting his campaign at over $2 million cash on hand. Pearce had $911,000 cash on hand in his last campaign finance report six weeks ago. The preliminary injunction also means that New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver cannot enforce state donation limits to the funds Pearce raised for his federal campaigns. “The Secretary of State and her team are reviewing the details of the judge’s decision and will then consider next steps,” Secretary of State spokesman Joey Keefe said.
Some resources from national Democrats are trickling into New Mexico in an attempt to swing the state’s 2nd Congressional District from Republicans to Democrats. The national party is doing that as many predict a “wave” election for Democrats, and a chance to return the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to Democrats. To do that, Democrats will need to win in traditionally-Republican districts and retain all their own districts. This puts New Mexico on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s radar. Next year’s election will see two New Mexico congressional districts without an incumbent running for reelection.