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$80M in the red is no way to start a fiscal year

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — As of July 1, New Mexico state government began fiscal year 2011 $80 million in the red, maybe. That’s what the Legislative Finance Committee is guessing.

Does that mean more tax increases and cuts in government services? For now, additional tax increases seem unlikely. The Legislature and governor have come to what seems like a firm agreement that there will be no more special sessions for the rest of the calendar year.

At the end of the last special session, the Legislature gave Gov. Bill Richardson extraordinary powers to make cuts in state government wherever he sees fit.

Former Gov. Gary Johnson tried that once and lawmakers went to court to stop him from usurping their power. This time, they usurped their own power in order not to have to return until next January’s regular session.

Normally that is not the sort of responsibility a governor would like to assume. But Gov. Richardson won’t be running for office this fall. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish will be running and any Richardson actions are likely to affect her.

So legislators have put themselves in the enviable situation of saying they wish the governor would hurry up and do his job.


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