Tue February 8, 2011

N.M. Governor Tough On Crime, Easy On Business

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has pledged to fill a $450 million budget deficit without raising taxes. She wants a more business-friendly state with fewer regulations.

But critics say her new policies only please oil and gas producers, who contributed generously to her campaign.

'Open For Business'

Martinez swept to victory last year on a wave of anti-incumbent support from 54 percent of voters. Her platform: law and order, smaller government and deregulation.

In her state of the state address, she outlined her solidly Republican agenda. Martinez promised to help small businesses create jobs and improve the state's stumbling economy.

"The big corporations have a team of lawyers and accountants to help them," she said. "It's the small businesses, the mom and pop shops, that get lost in the layers of red tape. We will help them and in doing so, send a loud message and a very clear message: New Mexico is open for business."

'A New Sheriff In Town'

John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group, says that even though Martinez calls it being open for business, it's open for polluters.

He served on the Environmental Improvement Board that approved the state's new greenhouse gas cap-and-trade rules late last year. On Martinez's very first day in office, she froze all pending new regulations, including cap-and-trade, saying she wanted to make sure they didn't hurt businesses.

Environmental groups sued to have the rules go into effect, and the state Supreme Court ruled in their favor. Still, Horning is not optimistic.

"I think it is a foreboding sign for those of us who had hoped that New Mexico would lead the way on a clean-energy economy," he says.

Under the previous administration of Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, the cap-and-trade policies underwent a lengthy review process and years of litigation before they were approved by the board.

"We definitely have a new sheriff in town," says Republican State Sen. Clinton Harden.

Harden says the state's regulatory system was abused under the previous, Democratic administration. He'd like to see the whole process repeated — this time, with Martinez's Republican appointees conducting the review.

"In order for New Mexico to put [out] an 'open for business' sign, we need to make these decisions based on sound science and not political rhetoric," he says.

Crime And Punishment

Getting rid of environmental regulations isn't the only thing on Martinez's agenda.

As district attorney in southern New Mexico, Martinez made a name for herself prosecuting high-profile murder, sexual assault and child abuse cases. She worked for more than two decades in Las Cruces, a city less than an hour from the U.S.-Mexico border and the ongoing violence of drug cartels.

Early in her law career, Martinez says, she knew which side of the courtroom she wanted to be on. She remembers one specific case she observed while working as a law clerk: A man was accused of killing his wife.

"And that's when I decided I needed to be on the prosecution side — to make sure things were done right and that people like him, who kill their wives in domestic violence, are held accountable," she says.

As governor, Martinez is spearheading an effort to require DNA samples from everyone arrested for a felony.

The first Latina governor in the U.S. also wants to take driver's licenses away from undocumented immigrants. And she just signed an executive order requiring state police to ask criminal suspects about their immigration status. Copyright 2011 KUNM-FM. To see more, visit http://www.kunm.org.