Local leaders: Session shouldn’t impact current budget

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Local leaders aren’t expecting next week’s special legislative session to impact current budgets but aren’t sure what it will mean for the future or tax revenue communities depend on each year.

Clovis’ Community Development Director Claire Burroughes said the city is not anticipating any issues with existing state allocations.

County and municipal leaders were warned months ago to spend or commit allocations quickly to secure the funding, she said.

As a result the city’s state-paid projects are all under contract or paid.

“The New Mexico department of finance has warned us about capital outlay funding being cut if it wasn’t spent and we were forging ahead with our projects anyhow,” she said.

However there is no way to know what will happen, Burroughes said, with requests for coming budgets.

Where leaders are expecting issues to arise is in tax money they depend on as the state looks for areas to scrape together money to make up the deficit.

“There are taxes out there that the legislature could look at that could impact us,” she said.

“We anticipate that they’ll be looking at some of the taxes that we have in place and we’ll be prepared to oppose any measures that they try to take to take away funding that we receive.”

The Legislature will convene in a special session on Oct. 17 to try to resolve a budget deficit of more than $400 million.

To deal with the deficit, the governor and lawmakers are looking at budget cuts, canceling previously approved capital improvement projects to free up money and tapping into the cash balances held by programs and agencies.

The governor has proposed budget cuts of 3 percent — excluding schools — but lawmakers have suggested budget reductions of 4 percent or 5 percent probably will be necessary.

Lawmakers will receive an updated revenue forecast next week that will set the deficit reduction target for the session.

Monday, Gov. Bill Richardson said tax increases will not be on the agenda.

Richardson announced the date of the session on Monday after meeting with a group of legislators on what should be done to resolve the state’s budget problems.

The state faces a revenue shortfall of at least $433 million. But some lawmakers such as Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, expect the deficit has grown to $550 million or more because of a continued weakening of the state’s economy.