N.M. Gov. Susana Martinez Tough On Crime, Easy On Business New Mexico's new governor, Susana Martinez, was elected on a platform calling for law and order and business-friendly deregulation. But critics say her new policies only please oil and gas producers, who contributed generously to her campaign.
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N.M. Governor Tough On Crime, Easy On Business

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

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

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The new governor of New Mexico is America's first Latina governor, the first woman of Latin-American descent. But Republican Susana Martinez doesn't have much time to celebrate. Like many governors, she faces a budget deficit. She promised to fill the $450 million budget hole without raising taxes. She also says she wants a more business-friendly state with fewer regulations. And she faces early criticism that her policies help oil and gas producers who contributed to her campaign. Elaine Baumgartel from member station KUNM has the latest in our series on new governors.

ELAINE BAUMGARTEL: Susana 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, Martinez outlined her solidly Republican agenda. She promised to help small businesses create jobs and improve the state's stumbling economy.

SUSANA MARTINEZ: The big corporations have a team of lawyers and accountants to help them. 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.


JOHN HORNING: She may call it being open for business. I say it's being open for polluters.

BAUMGARTEL: That's John Horning with the environmental group WildEarth Guardians. He served on the Environmental Improvement Board that approved the state's new greenhouse gas cap and trade rules late last year.

On her very first day in office, Governor Martinez 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. But Horning is not optimistic.

HORNING: I think it is a foreboding sign for those of us who had hoped New Mexico would lead the way in on a clean energy economy.

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

CLINTON HARDEN: We definitely have a new sheriff in town.

BAUMGARTEL: That's Republican State Senator Clinton Harden, who says the state's regulatory system was abused under the previous Democratic administration. He'd like to see the whole process repeated, this time before Governor Martinez's Republican appointees.

HARDEN: In order for New Mexico to put an open-for-business sign, we need to make these decisions based on sound science, and not political rhetoric.

BAUMGARTEL: Getting rid of environmental regulations isn't the only thing on Governor 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 over 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 on 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.

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

BAUMGARTEL: And now, 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 just signed an executive order requiring state police to ask criminal suspects about their immigration status.

For NPR News, I'm Elaine Baumgartel in Albuquerque.

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