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          Front Page  news  state

New Governor Cuts Cabinet Paychecks

By Dan Boyd
Journal Capitol Bureau
          SANTA FE — Salaries for Cabinet secretaries in Gov. Susana Martinez's administration are being slashed from levels established under Bill Richardson, Martinez announced Wednesday.
        The new pay scale will cap salaries for New Mexico Cabinet secretaries at $125,000 per year. Under Richardson, at least 10 Cabinet secretaries made more than that amount as recently as late 2009, with three pulling in more than $170,000 annually.
        Martinez said the decision represents her commitment to cut government spending, while a legislative finance leader called the move positive but largely symbolic in terms of actual savings.
        "Families and businesses across New Mexico are being forced to balance their budgets and cut back on their spending," Martinez said in a prepared statement. "It's time for government to do the same and my cabinet will be leading by example."
        Martinez, a Republican who took office Jan. 1, has appointed nominees to head up 13 of the state government's 23 Cabinet-level departments. She said earlier this week that she hopes to round out her Cabinet by week's end.
        Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Wednesday that the decision is smart business.
        "In all honesty, I think it's symbolic in a positive way," Smith said. "I appreciate the fact she's at least taking steps to get spending under control."
        The salary cuts will reduce Cabinet salary spending by at least 10 percent, or about $300,000 in cumulative savings, Martinez's office said Wednesday. The current state budget is $5.6 billion, and the state faces a budget deficit of at least $200 million.
        The sum of pay cuts and job eliminations by Martinez so far — although it is her first week in office — amounts to less than $500,000 in recurring spending.
        Martinez also said each Cabinet secretary will make less money than his or her predecessor.
        Under Richardson, the highest-paid Cabinet member was Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil, who earned about $188,000 before his salary was trimmed.
        Since taking office, Martinez has eliminated two chef positions at the Governor's Mansion in Santa Fe, ordered the state's DNA Administrative Center to be kept in Albuquerque and fired all members of the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board.
        Martinez has said she will oppose raising taxes during her four-year term, leaving spending cuts as the most likely way to make up the bulk of the shortfall.
        Appointee list
        All Martinez Cabinet appointees must be confirmed by the state Senate during the legislative session that begins Jan. 18.
        Here's the list of appointees announced to date with their annual salary levels:
        • Rick May, Department of Finance and Administration — $125,000
        • Hanna Skandera, Public Education Department — $125,000
        • Jose Z. Garcia, Higher Education Department — $125,000
        • Jon Barela, Economic Development Department — $122,500
        • Sidonie Squier, Human Services Department — $117,000
        • Gorden Eden, Department of Public Safety — $115,000
        • Lupe Martinez, Corrections Department — $106,000
        • Veronica Gonzales, Department of Cultural Affairs — $106,000
        • Ed Burckle, General Services Department — $105,000
        • Demesia Padilla, Taxation and Revenue Department — $105,000
        • Yolanda Berumen-Deines, Children, Youth and Families Department — $105,000
        • Michael Duvall, Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management — $103,000
        • Celina Bussey, Department of Workforce Solutions — $95,000

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