Gov. Bill Richardson has signed three bills that balance New Mexico’s fiscal 2009 budget. He said the measures give lawmakers a starting point for deciding how to budget for fiscal 2010.

The fiscal solvency measures that were enacted reduce state agencies’ general fund operating budgets by 1.4% to 5%, shift $58.4 million from the public school capital outlay fund that was either left over after projects were completed or allocated for projects that did not have local support, and cancel $27 million appropriated earlier for health care programs that now are scheduled to receive significant increases in federal funding.

The first quarter’s corporate income-tax payment — which was inadvertently eliminated by legislation passed in 2003 — was also restored. The state expects to generate $65 million by again requiring corporations to make a first-quarter payment based on estimated income.

“While it pains me to sign any cuts, the current economic crisis has forced us to make these tough decisions,” Richardson said. “Working together, my administration and lawmakers found common ground and, in the end, we have a responsible package that targets cuts where we can manage them and maintains necessary services.”

The governor said the federal stimulus package should enable the state to avoid further cuts in the education budget.

“I am hopeful that we will be able to take advantage of the federal stimulus package to keep much of our education budget intact,” he said. “My preference is to avoid any cuts to education as we make the tough decisions to cut state spending.”

Richardson said he is still reviewing the fourth bill in the package, which would remove funding for several stalled capital outlay projects.

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