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Sunday, April 17, 2011
Rally Protests Funding Cuts
By Charles D. Brunt
Journal Staff Writer
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is putting out-of-state corporations and the wealthiest New Mexicans ahead of the rest of the state by cutting social programs and singling out state agencies serving women and African Americans.
That's the message an estimated 200 marchers and supporters put out Saturday during a 90-minute rally outside the Sheryl M. Williams Stapleton African American Performing Arts Center on the Expo New Mexico fairgrounds.
The center's namesake, state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, said Martinez cut the center's entire $378,000 budget without contacting anyone at the performing arts center and has never said why she wiped out its finances.
"We are taxation without representation," Stapleton said.
"We demand fairness. That is what this is about," she told the crowd.
When Martinez signed a slimmed-down $5.4 billion state budget into law April 8, she line-item vetoed the entire budgets of two agencies: the performing arts center; and the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women.
"In a matter of seconds, our first woman governor made history... she de-funded the 37-year old agency," said Mary Molina Mescall, who served as executive director of the women's commission for almost eight years before leaving in March. "She cut no other commission. She went after us. So no, it's not about money, it's about personal agendas."
Although Mescall said she and other commission members had met with Martinez's staffers concerning a bill that would have stripped the agency's funding, "she did not have the guts to meet this woman face to face and tell us she was going to cut the commission," Mescall said. When the bill failed, Martinez vetoed the agency's $450,000 budget.
Before the rally, about 125 marchers, led by the Rev. Darnell Smith, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, walked four blocks along San Pedro NE to the performing arts center. They carried signs reading "Support Women and Girls," "Gov. Martinez — Queen Mean," "Save the Commission on Women" and similar admonitions.
Smith said Martinez has refused to meet with the NAACP despite numerous requests to do so.
Christine Trujillo, president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor AFL-CIO and the New Mexico chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, emceed the rally that included more than a dozen speakers, including state Sen. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque.
Griego said Martinez refused to increase taxes on out-of-state corporations or the wealthiest 1 percent of New Mexicans during the 60-day legislative session that ended March 19, and chose instead to make cuts in eduction, Medicaid and agencies such as the women's commission and the performing arts center.
"The fight is on," Griego said.
Attempts to reach Martinez's press secretary Scott Darnell for comment Saturday were unsuccessful.