ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In her most recent TV ad, Gov. Susana Martinez’s re-election campaign takes aim at Democratic opponent Gary King’s voting record and last name.
The ad, which was launched this week, portrays King wearing a crown while a narrator says, “It’s good to be the King.”
The ad describes a tax increase package that King voted for in 1987 – his first year in a 12-year stint in the state House of Representatives – as the “largest in history.”
However, 2010 tax hikes signed into law by Martinez’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, during a lean state budget year were actually larger, dollar-wise, than the 1987 package proposed by then-Republican Gov. Garrey Carruthers.
King, now New Mexico’s attorney general, said Friday he does not regret voting in favor of the increase on gasoline and income taxes, among others.
“Had we not raised taxes, we would have had to significantly curtail the (public) education system,” King told the Journal.
The ad also targets King’s votes on several legislator compensation measures, saying, “… Gary King took good care of himself. King repeatedly voted to raise his own pay. Voted to sweeten his taxpayer-funded retirement.”
King said he did not recall voting to increase the size of legislative pensions, but acknowledged supporting a bill that would have given a salary to lawmakers. He said he still supports such a concept.
– By Dan Boyd, firstname.lastname@example.org
Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation have criticized the state Human Services Department’s shakeup of the behavioral health system and asked a federal agency to keep closer tabs on the department.
Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham said this week there were irregularities in HSD’s suspension of Medicaid payments to 15 nonprofits, 12 of which were later replaced by Arizona firms.
They said the audit that prompted the suspensions last year was flawed, there was a lack of transparency, and the shakeup jeopardized services to some of the most vulnerable New Mexicans.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, the Democrats said they had “serious questions” about whether HSD has an effective process to determine whether fraud allegations are credible. They called the payment suspensions “a de facto termination from the state’s Medicaid program without any meaningful due process.”
The Democrats urged HHS to “vigorously increase oversight” of the suspension process and its aftermath.
There was a barbed response from Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration.
“It’s no surprise that Washington politicians don’t see a problem” with improper use of Medicaid money, “but we will continue to root out waste, fraud and abuse to ensure Medicaid funds are protected for those who need it most,” said HSD’s Matt Kennicott.
– By Deborah Baker, email@example.com