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When budget cuts won't reach and taxes won't go

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By Jay Miller

SANTA FE — This is a highly unusual special session. It might be over by the time you read this. But if it is, it will be because lawmakers gave up on solving the total problem.

The state is faced with its biggest deficit ever. Gov. Bill Richardson has complicated matters greatly by putting tax increases and public school classroom cuts off limits.

What’s left are cuts of over 10 percent to the rest of the budget. Since people are by far the largest part of governmental budgets, it is almost impossible to make 10 percent cuts without cutting people.

Some people’s cuts do come to many lawmakers’ minds immediately. Highest on that list is all those high-paid exempt employees Gov. Richardson has scattered throughout state government. Estimates of their numbers run as high as over 800, compared to less than 300 when Richardson took office.

Another pool of employees about whom few will shed a tear are mid-level administrators in public schools and higher education. At the public school level and to some extent in higher education, many of those additional positions exist because of state and federal regulations.

Accountability requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act call for testing, reporting and tracking of students, which mean many pencil pushers need to keep track of what is happening.


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