Representatives react to speech

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By Jennifer Garcia

The Legislature convened on Tuesday for its 49th session and faces many budgetary issues.


In his State of the state address, Gov. Richardson mentioned the state’s rainy-day fund, in which there is more than $400 million to help cover the huge deficit the state faces.


Republican Minority Leader Rep. Thomas Taylor and Minority Whip Rep. Keith Gardner agreed that the state faces some serious matters.


“New Mexico is in a financial crisis,” Taylor said. “There are serious challenges ahead of us. The problem is more serious than the public is viewing it,” he continued.


Regarding the rainy-day fund, Taylor said, “It’s been raining for a few years. We’ve spun ourselves into a new level of funding.”


He also said that the governor seems to be spending more money on education than on healthcare.


In addition to the already bold agenda, lawmakers will be tasked with trying to figure out how to balance the state budget that is currently $450 million in the red.


“We have the money to solve the problems, but have to change the way we do business,” he commented. Gardner also said that changes need to be made. “Revenues have not grown at the same pace. We have to look at the crux of what got us there,” he said.


Democratic House Speaker Ben Lujan said that one of the top priorities for this legislative session is to find a way to balance the budget.


“We have a shortfall that we’ll have to address initially in order to get the 2010 budget started. That’s going to be time consuming in the first couple of weeks,” Lujan said.


He also said that providing additional tax incentives for renewable energy we can attract to our state makes sense. Continuing support of the super computer centers that Los Alamos National Laboratory is a part of is also important to Lujan.


He also said the legislature will do it’s best to not cut into public safety, healthcare or education in an effort to balance the budget and cut down on spending. Lujan also said that he agreed with the governor when he suggested that the legislature pass a bill that would make recruiting for a gang a felony charge.


“It’s not so much a problem in our smaller communities, but it is becoming a big problem in Albuquerque,” Lujan said. “I think we need to nip it in the bud.”


The legislature is meeting for its 60-day session this year, during which a number of issues will be addressed.


Richardson said lawmakers worked hard to diversify the state economy and create tens of thousands of new jobs and how the economy is no longer dependent on one or two industries.


“It is broader and more diverse than ever and for that reason we are weathering a financial crisis better than most,” he said during his speech. “Some are offering a pessimistic view of our future. But pessimism never built a road, never taught a student, and never immunized a child. It never protected our streets, never created a job and pessimism will not solve this crisis,” he continued.


Richardson said that this year he is proposing a four-part economic security plan, which will do the following:


• Create new jobs,


• Build a better workforce,


• Renew our role as an innovation state,


• Provide safety net to catch those who fall.