Budget battle rolls toward January

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE – The closing gavel of this year’s special legislative session also served as the opening gavel for next January’s 2010 Legislature.

The first round has been completed. And as in any heavyweight fight, the budget cutters and tax increasers spent their time feeling each other out.

Now that the combatants know each other’s tendencies, both can proceed to defend their territory and attempt to maximize their advantages.

As the battle of the budget deficit began, neither side was sure of what it was up against. Was this a deficit that could be addressed with short term solutions and would go away soon? Or would it take big tax increases and/or deep budget cuts to tame?

By session’s end lawmakers knew they were looking at something big. It was a deficit that had been growing at the rate of about $100 million a month and gave no indication of slowing.

Limited by restrictions imposed by the governor in his special session call, lawmakers concentrated on sweeping up the remainder of non-recurring revenues lying around and supplemented them with some rather major cuts to agencies under the governor.

But at this point, all 112 legislators appear to understand that painful cuts and/or hefty tax increases are the only alternatives remaining in January.

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