Legislators concerned with forecast

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By Susan M. Bryan

SANTA FE — New Mexico finance and taxation officials said Thursday they’re standing by their revenue forecast as lawmakers continue negotiations in an effort to hammer out a plan for financing public schools and state government.

With a special legislative session looming Monday, the debate over spending cuts and tax increases in the Legislature has turned into a fight over revenue projections with the executive branch.

Several lawmakers have said the forecasts backed by Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration are overly optimistic and could result in the Legislature coming back in the fall to plug another shortfall. Lawmakers already are grappling with a $600 million deficit.

Taxation and Revenue Secretary Rick Homans said executive branch economists met Thursday and again concluded the forecast is on track. He dismissed lawmakers’ concerns, saying they appear to be based on incomplete information about revenue from personal and corporate income taxes.

“Stronger natural gas prices are helping the revenue picture, while gross receipts taxes and personal and corporate income taxes continue to produce as we expected,” Homans said in a statement.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, who heads the finance committee, said the economists “better be right.”

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