3-percent cuts loom over government agencies

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By Associated Press

SANTA FE (AP) — Government agencies and programs in New Mexico will face 3-percent cuts starting next month under a plan approved Thursday to close a shortfall in the state’s $5.3 billion budget.

Public schools will largely escape the reductions because of a new influx of federal economic stimulus money.

However, education officials warn that large cutbacks loom next year unless lawmakers and the next governor find a way to replace the federal money when it’s no longer available.

“There is just a huge cliff and when all this stimulus money stops, we’re going to have to jump and it’s going to be a big jump,” said Winston Brooks, superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools.

His comments came after the state Board of Finance approved a plan by Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration to trim                  3.2 percent, or $151 million, to balance this year’s budget.

However, New Mexico is getting about $65 million in federal stimulus money and that will mostly offset $77 million in cuts that otherwise would have been made to public schools.

Because of the federal money, state aid for school operations, including transportation costs, will be trimmed only about one-half of 1 percent.

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