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All this talk about budget cutting conjures up images of Aubrey Dunn Sr. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee back in the 1970s, he kept a hatchet on the table to remind his committee members – and everyone else – what they were there for.
I’m imagining two ghosts of budgets past hovering over Roundhouse deliberations – Dunn and the equally no-nonsense John Mershon, once chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. Both hailed from Otero County, both were fiscally conservative Democrats.
Lately I heard someone disparage Sen. John Arthur Smith as a Blue Dog Democrat who was too heartless to be a real Democrat. In my mind, Smith has become the adult in Never Never Land, a guy whose eye-on-the-ball scrutiny qualifies him to wear Dunn’s mantle.
So when Smith complains that every proposed cut has produced an opposing interest group, you have an inkling of how difficult the coming legislative session will be.
Take tourism, for example. Budget cutters want to roll tourism in with economic development, labor and workers’ compensation in one mega-agency. But the tourism industry campaigned hard to create the cabinet-level Tourism Department in 1991.
If the two are combined again, they say, tourism will again take a back seat to industrial recruiting.
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