SANTA FE If a politician's resume is lacking in one way or another, the fastest way to beef it up is with a heavy spin cycle.
Accomplishments take time, effort and struggle. Spin is instantaneous and potentially just as good politically.
Take credit for what you did not achieve. Ignore the lack of jobs in your state. Stick to your story no matter what.
So it is with Gov. Susana Martinez. She is as consistent as the desert sunshine in spreading self-serving myths.
Martinez, a Republican, will stand for re-election next year without many accomplishments. In the tradition of someone determined to win votes, she is re-inventing how government works in hopes of receiving credit where little is due her.
A week ago, after Democrats took turns bludgeoning Martinez at their state convention, her political adviser, Jay McCleskey, fired back.
McCleskey is a paid mouthpiece willing to go to extremes for his clients. What is noteworthy in this case is that he only repeated a gross exaggeration that Martinez herself has made in speeches.
"After closing the largest structural budget deficit in state history, Gov. Martinez is focused on moving New Mexico forward on a bipartisan basis by reforming education and passing what has been heralded as the most significant tax reform in decades..." McCleskey said.
Let's focus on that bold claim about "the largest structural budget deficit," a mouthful of bureaucratic jargon if ever there was one. This term was invented by spin specialists to make government seem more mysterious than it is.
A structural deficit merely means a projected shortage, the kind most of us deal with at some time. You lose that second job that was bringing in an extra $500 a month, so you cut household spending to make sure you can pay the mortgage next fall. You just closed a structural deficit.
Now back to Martinez's claims. She took office in January 2011, joining a state government that had a balanced budget. But the economy was rotten and members of the Legislative Finance Committee knew that projected revenues for the budget cycle starting in July would not be enough to meet current expenses.
On Jan. 5, 2011, after Martinez had been governor all of five days, legislators announced their plan to close the projected deficit.
Teachers and other state employees would take home less pay because they would contribute more to their pensions. Savings from that change would total about $50 million, or about a quarter of overall spending cuts of $194 million.
Legislators continued refining their plan and then submitted a budget to Martinez. She vetoed a couple million dollars in spending from a $5.4 billion budget that was balanced before it reached her desk.
Sure, Martinez had a modest role in that budget, but to claim that she closed the largest deficit in state history is a fairy tale with her as the heroine.
"We balance the budget as a Legislature. What she says, I guess that's politics," said state Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe.
Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, in January 2012 publicly challenged Martinez's self-aggrandizing comments after she spoke of her budget prowess in her state-of-the-state speech. No matter, Martinez repeated her budget story when she spoke last August at the Republican National Convention.
"The strategy seems to be that, if she says it often enough, propaganda will be accepted as truth," Morales said.
Morales, 40, is one of a half-dozen Democrats considering a run for governor next year.
He said legislators began painful budget cuts in 2009, when he was a freshman senator, Democrat Bill Richardson was governor and Martinez was still district attorney of Dona Ana County.
Banks had faltered, the stock market had plunged and states were bleeding jobs. In this maelstrom, New Mexico legislators cut about $200 million to avoid a deficit in the current budget year. Then they cut more from the forthcoming budget to balance it too.
"The state Constitution requires a balanced budget, and that is what we always send to the governor," Varela said.
But listening to Martinez and her camp, some might imagine legislators were on long lunch breaks or napping in the Capitol while Super Governor closed the deficit faster than a speeding bullet.
All the talk about budgets may obscure a hard truth namely that New Mexico has not shared in the renewed prosperity that Arizona, Colorado and Texas have.
Voters will judge Martinez in 2014 on many factors, including her attempts to improve schools, the quality of her appointments and her vision for the state. But lack of jobs will be the biggest issue for Martinez and whatever Democrat ends up running against her.
When voters look beyond the hype to the key issue, they will find that Martinez's claim of closing an historic budget deficit is a selfish one unsupported by the record.