Lawmakers are between a rock and a hard place

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By Hal Rhodes

As we approach the season of good cheer, count me among those who wish members of New Mexico’s Legislature the happiest of holidays. If they’re smart they’ll sock a little of that happiness away so as to have something to draw on in the weeks ahead.

They’ll need it.

Only 18 days after the New Year dawns, state lawmakers convene at the Roundhouse for their 2010 legislative session.

It will be a so-called short session, 30 days, but it looms as a grueling and contentious 30 days where tempers flare and camaraderie dissolves into fixed bayonets.

We had an early look at what’s to come last week when key legislators publicly came unglued over Gov. Bill Richardson’s veto of certain spending cuts they made at their special legislative session in October.

Facing the governor and lawmakers at the upcoming regular session is a budget shortfall some estimate to run as high as $1 billion over a two-year period when anticipated expenditures and projected revenues meet face-to-face.

It isn’t pretty. Either substantial new revenue must be generated (think taxes) or drastic cuts in state programs (think education, health, social services, included) must be made during, or some combination thereof.

Such are the wages of the Great Recession that settled upon us a year and a half ago.

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