New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has formed a task force to study a variety of new revenue options to balance the state budget before the regular legislative session convenes in January.

Richardson said the state should not rely on spending cuts alone to make up for a revenue shortfall of more than $650 million in fiscal 2010.

“Our revenue has taken a major hit from the global economic crisis, and we’ve responded by taking bold action to cut state spending to offset those losses,” he said. “But moving forward we must also take a serious look at options to increase our revenue in ways that allow us to maintain our competitive advantage and address New Mexico’s long-term financial health.”

The 40-member task force will be chaired by Rick Homans, secretary of the Department of Taxation and Revenue.

Richardson announced the formation of the group after signing budget-cutting bills passed during the recent special legislative session. The measures are expected to reduce spending by $470 million.

“I won’t pretend that these actions will solve all our budget problems, but it’s a start,” the governor said last week.

He also issued an executive order that calls for five unpaid furlough days by state employees and cut agency budgets by 7% from already reduced spending levels.

The furloughs will save the state $10.8 million. There are almost 20,000 employees in administration agencies, but it is not clear how many will be affected by the furloughs.

Employees in agencies headed by elected officials, school and college employees, and court employees are not subject to the furloughs.

The fiscal 2010 budget cuts ordered by Richardson will reduce spending by $79 million.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said he expects lawmakers will have to deal with a $400 million revenue gap for fiscal 2011 when the Legislature meets in January for a scheduled 30-day session.

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