New Mexico Governor-elect Susana Martinez and outgoing Gov. Bill Richardson disagreed last week on the likelihood of a potential revenue shortfall of $450 million in fiscal 2011.
State leaders have been anticipating a budget gap of $250 million next year, but the state Finance and Administration Department released new figures last week showing a projected $450 million budget hole in the next fiscal year.
Richardson — a Democrat who will leave office at the end of the current term after serving the maximum two terms as governor — said the higher figure is based on incorrect assumptions and would be a worst-case scenario.
Martinez, a Republican who defeated Democratic Lieut. Gov. Diane Denish on Nov. 2, said Richardson is trying to hide the size of the potential shortfall. She said his administration was playing “financial shell games.”
“The revelation of a near half-billion dollar deficit is far worse than expected and confirms our suspicions that the Richardson-Denish administration has been hiding the ball all along with respect to the true budget deficit,” Martinez said last week.
“I will work with the Legislature to make the tough decisions necessary to balance the budget by getting spending under control,” the incoming governor added. “The long-term solution to our budget crisis is to get our economy moving again and that is why I will oppose efforts to raise taxes. “
Through his spokesman, Richardson said Martinez’s statement reflected a shaky grasp of state budget issues.
“It’s not surprising that Susana Martinez doesn’t understand the state budget and the growth of Medicaid since she ignored it during the campaign and has not yet accepted our offer for a thorough briefing,” said Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.
In her successful campaign for governor, Martinez promised no tax hikes in her first year and no cuts in public education and Medicaid. The two spending categories account for 60% of New Mexico’s budget.