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Tough times may be ahead

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By Ralph Damiani

In a talk to the Rotary Club of Los Alamos, Rep. Jeannette Wallace described a difficult and trying legislative session. The 30-day session, supposedly for financial matters, ended Feb. 14.Wallace spoke to the club on Thursday during its weekly meeting on the UNM-LA campus, beginning with an overview of the general lay of the land for the session.“We passed a $6 billion budget,” she said. “But you must understand that of that, half is for education issues, with another 20 percent going for Medicare and Medicaid and health issues. The rest covers state government.”She told the members that there were many facets of government not covered by this general fund bill, such as highway spending, game and fish and more.Wallace also said that it was a difficult session in many ways, from the governor’s overreaching to a spike in threats.“A problem with this session was that we had too many issues from the governor and he wanted them his way,” the Los Alamos Republican said. “He wanted the control (over the health care bill) and we wanted to share it. Bottom line is the governor wanted too much control.”She continued, “It was a rough session, I have never been threatened so often – never have seen so much anger before. It was a rough session.”Wallace said she sees problems ahead in the coming years.“We had $365 million in new money this year to spend but that is dropping each year,” she said. “We will have some hard times ahead.”Bills dealing with ethics also will come back, she predicted.“I favor an ethics bill but as to the ethics bill, the problem was with the public financing of all statewide elections – where does the money come from?” she said. “The plan submitted would take money from the general fund and that general fund hit would be replaced how? Where is the funding?”Of special interest to Los Alamos was the new school-funding plan that died in the Senate.“As to the new school-funding plan, it is not really new,” Wallace said. “Rep. Mimi Stewart has wanted to tax Los Alamos lab for years – she would like to kill Los Alamos. But this new plan was not funded, which is why it failed. And while it was stated over and over that this was to help the small school districts, of the $365 million in new funding, Albuquerque Schools was to get more than a third of this.“Of course, the more than $54 million Albuquerque annually gets in federal grant money was never mentioned,” she said.This bill will come back again, Wallace warned.