Among the several Republican governors who took office following the 2010 election, three have arguably stood out due to their battles against unions: Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, and Nikki Haley of South Carolina. There is one governor, though, who has quietly begun to make noticeable reforms and implement conservative policy in her state--Susana Martinez of New Mexico.
Governor Martinez came into office on the heels of corruptocrat governor, former presidential candidate, and former Obama administration commerce secretary nominee, Bill Richardson. Richardson had been charged with pay-to-play schemes involving state bond deals, but those charges just so happened to be dropped by Eric Holder's Department of Justice in August of 2009. Needless to say, New Mexico was in need of reform. As a four term district attorney, Martinez spent a good deal of her time prosecuting corruption cases, so she certainly has experience taking on corruption.
In a state that President Obama won by 15 points in 2008, Governor Martinez has managed to rack up a 50% approval rating through her first year in office--highest among newly elected Republican governors--and is doing well among independents and Democrats as well. Her gubernatorial priorities have been education, balancing the budget, ensuring transparency and ethics in government, and keeping New Mexicans safe. Sounds kind of familiar, huh?
During her first year in office, Governor Martinez has turned a $400 million budget deficit into an estimated $246 million surplus. Under her direction, her cabinets have made changes to their budgets to make roughly $70 million in cuts. She has also saved money for the state by doing simple things like reducing state office space and state employee cell phone use. and At the same time, New Mexico has become the 4th best state for job growth, and their unemployment rate had gone down two percentage points between October of 2010 and October 2011. She also fought against a $128 million tax increase for small business when she vetoed a portion of a bill proposed by her democratically controlled legislature. Unfortunately, the state's supreme court overturned her veto when the legislature sued.
Governor Martinez has also made strides to make government more transparent and ethical. On her first day in office, she signed an executive order that prohibited any part of the New Mexico state government from hiring or retaining lobbyists. She is also asking the legislature to pass a bill that would disallow anyone serving in public office working as a lobbyist for at least two years after their time in government. She has put the state checkbook online and displays the salaries of all state government employees. Governor Martinez has also sold the state's executive jet, interestingly to a couple from Alaska, and has fired Governor Richardson's cooks as well.
Her educational initiatives are aimed at "reform, not just money" and include ensuring teachers are properly evaluated and students are reading at their appropriate grade level. She is also urging the legislature to pass legislation overturning New Mexico's policy that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licences. They are one of two states that allow such practices. She argues that this policy allows illegal immigrants to get a licence and use that licence to get documentation in other states.She has also expressed pointed criticism against amnesty.
You know her conservative message has to be making an impact and getting under the skin of the Left, as scurrilous statements have been made about her family's immigration status in order to try to undermine her plans to overturn New Mexico's drivers' license policy. Additionally, fellow minority, but liberal politicians are using racial slurs against her . To be sure, Governor Martinez only has one year under her belt now and time will tell if she will continue to implement further reforms and have continued success in frugal budgeting, but she's definitely off to quite a start. Besides, how can you not love someone who re-qualifies for her "conceal and carry" license like this?
Cross posted here and here.