Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tripp: Governor Too Vague On Cuts

By John Larson

SANTA FE – The New Mexico legislature opened its 2010 session Tuesday, with solving the state’s budget problems the main agenda.
The state faces a $500 million to $900 million shortfall for the coming year, a problem the special session last fall tried to solve.
In his opening speech, Gov. Bill Richardson called for targeted tax increases – for tobacco and liquor - and spending cuts.
In addition, Richardson said he would push for domestic partnerships; a statewide ban on hand-held cell phones for motorists; a newly created ethics commission; tougher penalties for gang involvement; and stricter domestic violence legislation.
Socorro’s Don Tripp, the 49th District Representative and member of the Legislative Appropriations Committee, told the Mountain Mail Wednesday that he felt the governor was too vague when referring to spending cuts.
“He came forward with all the things he wants to do, but offered us nothing to go on,” Tripp said. “He doesn’t come out and say where he needs to cut. He wants us to do it.”
Tripp said Richardson “is still in denial about the budget,” by not trying to reduce the number of state employees.
“The general thing is to get the overall number of state employees down to the national average,” Tripp said.
“For instance, support personnel for higher institutions is way out of whack, and more than twice or three times those in neighboring states.”
He said major changes to the state payroll would not be immediate, but that the budget crises is a “wake up call, to change a bloated government.”
Tripp said much of the budget shortfall can be made up from cutting one time money.
“The $150 million in extra capitol projects that are stalled can be diverted to help short funding,” he said. “The money in sponge bonds is good for another $100 million.
“With careful decisions like these we make it through with very little impact on the people were there to serve,” Tripp said. “Personal income taxes and capital gains are off the table.”
At the end of Day 2, he said he felt two things would come out of the session.
“What’s going to come down, I feel at this point, is the legislature will institute a surcharge on higher income people, and pass a one-half percent raise to the gross receipts tax to put in the state coffers,” Tripp said. “I get the feeling that’s what going to happen.”

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