New Mexico lawmakers prepare to tackle massive budget shortfall | KOB 4
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New Mexico lawmakers prepare to tackle massive budget shortfall

Kai Porter
Updated: May 07, 2020 06:47 PM
Created: May 07, 2020 03:43 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- New Mexico is facing a massive budget shortfall.

A group of state economists said in a memo that the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to wipe out between $2.1 billion and $3.9 billion in previously anticipated state government income by mid-2021.

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Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she will call a special session so state lawmakers can re-balance the budget.

“It hasn’t surprised me at all because I could see what was happening with gross receipts tax and obviously with all the news reports on what’s happening with oil and gas and taking to my counterparts in other parts of the state it was clear things were going downhill pretty quick," said Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, chair of the House Appropriations & Finance Committee.

Lundstrom believes June would be right time for a special session because it’s right before the new fiscal year begins.

She says they plan to balance the current budget first, which is facing a $400 million shortfall, then focus on how to balance the next budget, which starts in July.

“I think generally what’s going to happen is you’re going to see some re-calibration of raises, I don’t think it’s going to be possible this year," Lundstrom said. "I mean I would like to see something in there, I just don’t have a number yet. I think what we’re going to do first is go for the low-hanging fruit like vacancies and making sure that we are taking those into account. I think it’s also going to be important that we look at some of these savings programs that we set up. I mean that’s what the rainy day fund is for. That’s what tobacco settlement funds have been used for in the past”

House GOP leaders and elected officials from around the state addressed the budget crisis during a virtual town hall Thursday afternoon.

“That shortfall is unprecedented and almost unbelievable," said Rep. Jim Townsend.

State Rep. Jason Harper also weighed in on the state's financial crisis.

“It brings me no pleasure to say ‘see I told you so.’ but that’s the truth. That’s the fact. Both this legislative session and last I was on the house floor. We were debating the budget. And I said this oil and gas revenue forecasting and revenue stream is not going to last. It will collapse and it when it does it’s going to be more painful than ever before in our state history. And we’re seeing that right now. Now is the time to pay the piper and it’s going to be really painful," Harper said.
 
Harper blames Democrats – saying the state wouldn’t be in such a bad situation had they not spent so much in past budgets.

“The Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate have said that all options are on the table. And that’s sad to hear. Because if we had passed a sustainable budget, we wouldn’t have to have things on the table like cutting teacher pay raises, cutting government employee salaries, raising taxes," Haper said.
 
The governor has said mid-June is the target for a special session-- right before the new fiscal year begins in July. However, that could change if public health conditions won't allow for lawmakers to meet as a group at the Roundhouse.


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