Senate divided over budget

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Fight brews over $5.6 billion budget package

By Barry Massey

SANTA FE — A fight over spending and taxes is brewing in the Senate as lawmakers work on a $5.6 billion budget package passed by the House.

Senators are split over how much to cut the budget passed by the House and whether to go along with $300 million in tax increases that the House approved to balance its blueprint for financing public education and government programs next year.

The divisions in the Senate were on display Saturday as lawmakers were briefed by legislative staff and Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration on the House-passed budget and the state’s weak revenue outlook.

Tax increases face stronger opposition in the more conservative Senate than they did in the House. But liberal-leaning members of the Senate object to more cuts in spending to balance the budget.

“You can’t get out of this box just by cutting programs. You have to raise some revenues,” said Sen. Eric Griego, an Albuquerque Democrat.

He pointed out that tax cuts and incentives have trimmed revenues by $600 million since 2003, when Richardson took office.

“You can’t give away $600 million in revenues and then ask us to balance the budget on the backs of working families,” Griego said.

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