Thursday, March 4, 2010

Morales: Bill Far From Perfect

By John Severance

SOCORRO – The New Mexico State Senate passed a bill late Tuesday night that would generate $240 million through various tax and revenue measures to help plug a large budget shortfall next year.
The bill passed 25-15.
“What this piece of legislation does, it combines many proposals that were discussed during the regular session,” said Senator Howie Morales, who represents Socorro, Catron and Grant counties. “This is not a perfect bill by any means but it does provide a compromise to addressing the budget shortfall we are facing in a fair and responsible manner.”
The House, meanwhile, still was in session trying to pass the budget when the Mountain Mail went to press.
Morales said the bill would generate $240 million by increasing the state’s gross receipts tax by a one-eighth of a penny, closing a state income tax deduction used by people who itemize and requiring the state’s compensating tax to be paid on goods purchased from out-of-state sellers without a physical presence in New Mexico. The measure also would allow the state to take back $68 million it gives to local governments to compensate for repealing the gross receipts tax on food several years ago.
“This legislation tried to strike a balance,” Morales said. “We were able to accomplish this by not laying off state workers or educators and more so by not imposing salary decreases upon our working families. In addition to this we also try to address the problem of a bloated state government by eliminating over 3,000 positions that would have otherwise been filled.”
At the start of the special session, the estimated revenue shortfall was $600 million.
Morales said the gap between the revenue and expenditure has been filled by cutting $162 million in spending, eliminating several thousand positions from state agencies, increasing new revenue by $238 million and using the final $200 million in federal stimulus money that will be available for a portion of the coming year
The senator said the measures have produced a total state general fund budget of $5.35 billion for FY 11. In comparison, general fund budget for FY09 was $6.1 billion and for FY10 was $5.7 billion.

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