Albuquerque Public Schools to pay employees who serve in Santa Fe: will they double (or triple)-dip?

The Albuquerque Public Schools board (minus Peggy Muller Aragon who opposed the move), recognizing that it has an opportunity to increase its influence in Santa Fe at taxpayer expense, has embarked upon the misguided policy of paying its employees “political leave” while they serve in Santa Fe.

It was apparently all-too-easy for the Board to make the decision. After all, APS already has lobbyists patrolling the halls in Santa Fe, why not throw a few APS-paid legislators into the mix when it comes time to vote on the budget? At least one APS employee, Rep. Tim Lewis, has not accepted his pay as a teacher in the past and presumably will continue to do the same. I doubt the other three APS employees — Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque; Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque; and Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque — serving in Santa Fe will take the same stance, but I’d love to be surprised.

The question that needs to be asked now is whether these legislators will be allowed to receive “per diem” pay as legislators (again at taxpayer expense). Kathy Korte who previously served on the APS board once called this “triple-dipping.”

Another serious issue with the new APS policy is that it gives APS employees, at least those who accept the “political pay” an unfair advantage over their unpaid colleagues. Board member Barbara Petersen put a positive spin on things saying that offering the pay could draw more APS employees to become lawmakers when they otherwise might not have been able to afford it.

Of course, having fewer legislators with private sector experience and more who are beholden to their government employer is the last thing New Mexico needs.