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SANTA FE — “Being a legislator is a great job to have at a time like this.” Those were the words, or very close to them, of former state Rep. John Mershon, an Otero County Democrat, back in 1982.
At the time, New Mexico was plummeting into an economic downturn almost as severe as we have at present. Mershon was the longtime chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee and an ardent supporter of smaller government.
Rep. Mershon saw an opportunity to trim government programs that had continually been added to the state budget over the years. During those lean years, traditional state responsibilities such as education and law enforcement, increased as a percentage of the budget.
This time around, state lawmakers don’t seem to be looking at eliminating any recently added government services so much as they are in making across-the-board cuts.
There may be some hope, however. A newly created Government Restructuring Task Force will take a look at consolidating state agencies and eliminating some.
It came about as a result of a group Gov. Bill Richardson appointed late last year to make recommendations on how state government can save money.
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