When you sit down to speak with State Sen. Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, about politics, you will quickly learn two things: He loves his district, which encompasses the International District in Albuquerque, and he has ideas on how to reform parts of state government.
New Mexico Telegram sat down with Keller last week at a Teriyaki Chicken Bowl in his district — part of what looked like a long day of meetings Keller was holding at the eatery — to discuss his upcoming
Keller hopes to take that platform of changing the way government does business to the State Auditor’s Office. But Keller doesn’t believe that he has to reinvent the wheel and start over.
Keller mentioned the tip-line that State Auditor Hector Balderas set up where residents can report what they feel is fraud or abuse for the auditor to look into and Keller was supportive of Balderas’ tenure so far as Auditor. He said praised Balderas’ work “attacking fraud, waste and abuse.”
But in addition to reacting to fraud and mismanagement of money, Keller also says he would try “to be proactive about policies that are not going to be a good use of taxpayer money.” In other words, try to head off the fraud, waste and abuse before it became a problem.
The third leg of Keller’s platform would be working with the state legislature to improve New Mexico’s governmental policies.
When talking about what he would do with the legislature, Keller admitted that a lot of what he believes needs to be done “isn’t glamorous.”
“For example, we need an independent tax hearing officer, that’s always been an inherent conflict of interest that we’ve had in state government. We’ve got to reform the NMFA, the governance of that. Which I already tried as a legislator and it was vetoed, I want to keep working on that issue.”
Keller also mentioned regulatory reform, reforming the New Mexico Finance Authority and creating a tax expenditure budget — all things that Keller has tried to do was a legislator. In some cases, such as the tax expenditure budget, Keller was able to get it through the legislature, only to be vetoed by the governor.
“I’ve passed it twice and introduced it four times,” Keller said of the tax expenditure budget bill. “I changed it the second time to try to make it more palatable to her and she’s just not interested. No one wants to shine some light on the $1 billion in tax expenditures that we have. The status quo, the sort of institution, no one wants that information out there. That’s where someone needs to step up and the auditor’s office can do that.”
One reason that Keller wants to be state auditor is, despite his love for the state legislature, so he can have a more statewide agenda.
“As a legislator, you’re constrained. There’s no full-time staff. There’s a lot of research aspects,” Keller said. “This is why it takes four years to pass a bill. I think I could also play a supportive role much like the LFC and the legislative council.”
Keller also spoke about his brief flirtation with running for governor, saying he considered it but after speaking to his family, came back to the auditor’s race he has been looking at since he was reelected to the state Senate.
Keller said it was “flattering” that people had asked him to consider running for governor, but “My family and I settled right back to where we were in the first, place, which was auditor.”