Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jennings: Legislature Needs to Meet

Sen. Tim Jennings, Roswell Democrat, doesn’t necessarily believe that the legislature should go through the formality of calling itself into an “extraordinary session.” But he does believe that all of the legislators should get together soon for a thorough briefing on state finances. That’s because there’s trouble, Jennings says. He raised the topic in Santa Fe Friday at a meeting of the Legislative Council, the committee that oversees the Legislative Council Service.
The trouble, Jennings told me via telephone this afternoon, is that “our deficit is bigger than a lot of people want to tell.” The deficit is not $270 million, it’s “more like twice that or more.”
A further problem, Jennings said, is that a good bit of the money counted as among the state’s financial reserves cannot be accessed without legislative action. He cited the tobacco tax.
The first reason for gathering the legislature, Jennings said, is that in general “people need to know.” The second reason is practical. If Jennings’ sense of the state’s financial fix is anywhere close to correct—and he says, “I’m not the financial guru, I know that”—then the more time to fix the problem, the better. When the 2009 session ends in mid-March, the fiscal year is about three-quarters gone. That simply doesn’t allow enough time to deal with what may be massive cuts.
Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, Albuquerque Republican, was the only one who spoke in support of Jennings’ suggestions at the Legislative Council meeting. Arnold-Jones is an advisory member of the committee.

Jennings photo by Mark Bralley

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