Governor and legislators exchange fire

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — As predicted here, it’s as though the special legislative session never ended. Verbal assaults are still flying between Gov. Bill Richardson and legislative leaders.

Progressive Democrats are still upset the governor and their leaders prevented any consideration of tax increases. Moderate Democrats and Republicans continue to insist that deep cuts in all budgets are the only answer.

 The battle actually started well before the special session began. Conversation back in August centered around a $400 million deficit in a $5.5 billion budget. That was about a seven percent deficit. The governor talked about plugging half the hole with non-recurring money and making a 3.5 percent cut in state government spending.

By September, the deficit looked more like $550 million, which is a 10 percent hole in the budget projections. At that point, Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, sent a letter to public schools and colleges, advising them to prepare for budget cuts as high as 10 percent.

By early October, the deficit appeared to have grown to $660 million. Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, then joined Jennings in another letter to school superintendents reemphasizing the possibility of 10 percent cuts.

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