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25th of May 2017

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New Mexico governor, Democrats meet over budget stalemate

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Taxes remain the hurdle as New Mexico lawmakers prepare to return to the state capitol next week to hash out a budget compromise to ensure higher education and other government services are funded starting July 1.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and leaders of the Democrat-controlled Legislature met Friday to talk about the state’s budget crisis and areas where they might be able to reach consensus.

Martinez’s office called the meeting productive, saying the two-term governor was confident agreements could be reached on funding measures, including the restoration of dollars for colleges and universities around the state that she vetoed following the regular legislative session.

Still, Martinez reiterated her stance on the calls by Democrats to raise more revenues through higher registration fees for interstate trucking and increased taxes for some hospitals, online sales and retail gasoline and diesel sales.

“The governor reiterated that she will not support stand-alone tax increases, but is hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan path forward on tax reform,” said spokesman Michael Lonergan.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth was among those to sit down with Martinez on Friday. He had said previously that tax reform was supported by both sides of the aisle but that the state needed to raise new revenues to fund government services.

On Friday, Wirth said Democrats were still awaiting details of the governor’s tax reform proposal but that he’s encouraged that lawmakers and the governor are close to an agreement that would reinstate spending adopted during the regular session.

“From day one, our goal has been to pass a responsible budget that funds classrooms, higher education and critical state services while leaving our state on solid financial footing,” he said.

Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces and House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe also attended the meeting.

Martinez has argued that the budget passed by the Legislature earlier this year placed too much of a burden on New Mexico families and that certain government spending needed to be curbed.

Some of the pressure on elected leaders has since eased now that state finance officials announced an uptick in tax revenues this week.

The special session will begin Wednesday at noon.

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