The budget meets its Waterloo

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — What will come from the special legislative session that started Saturday? It may be the state’s most important special session ever.

Gov. Bill Richardson and lawmakers will have to plug a budget hole of some $700 million. That’s a $700 million shortfall that has occurred since last March when the 2009 session ended.  By August, it was up to $400 million. In September, it climbed to $550 million. And now it’s October.

New Mexico runs behind the curve when it comes to anything economic. We were slow to go into the recession and will be slower than the rest of the nation to come out. That means we’re still in a free-fall.

Richardson had hoped to use mostly short-term, one-time fixes during this special session but there’s just not that many corners that can be swept.

There will be some pain that will come out of this session. Richardson wants to shield education from being hit. Legislative leaders say that will necessitate a 16 percent slash to state agencies.

Education is the top priority of the state and these people must decide where that line should be drawn.

During the last big economic downturn in the early ’80s, Republican lawmakers tended to want to make education’s slice of the pie bigger while Democrats wanted to make the pie bigger.

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