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Why Do I Feel Like I’ve Been Here Before?

Well, it looks like Governor Richardson is committed to making sure that his legacy to New Mexico is a budget crisis (subscription):

Gov. Bill Richardson’s proposed universal health coverage plan would require $590 million in new general fund spending over the next five years, with business picking up most of the tab, Human Services Secretary Pamela S. Hyde said Tuesday.

Thankfully, at least two Senator’s are showing some fiscal sense:

Legislative Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, told the Journal the Health Solutions budget assumes significant new federal matching funds for the state’s Medicaid program— which would be in addition to the extra money collected from employers and other new revenue sources.

“That’s a sort of ostrich with its head in the sand,” Smith said. “Congress is trying to slow Medicaid spending.”

The administration’s budget counts on additional federal funds to help pay for the program.

“I don’t think we’re going to buy the governor’s numbers,” said Senate Minority Whip Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces, who is a member of the committee. Rawson also told the Journal he opposes giving Richardson more power by authorizing a new health care authority that is part of the governor’s package.

We’d be wise to heed these two gentlemen. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that Senator Rawson was warning us about another spending fiasco of Governor Richardson’s administration:

Four years ago this month, in … a special legislative session called by Gov. Bill Richardson, lawmakers passed a mega-bill to improve 37 roads at a cost of nearly $1.6 billion.

Tucked into the legislation was a phrase that authorized one of New Mexico’s most expensive and controversial transportation projects— not a road but a commuter rail system from Belen to Santa Fe.

Back in 2003, documents show, the cost for the rail project was listed at $90.2 million. Now the projected tab for the RailRunner Express has ballooned to as much as $425 million— and that doesn’t include another $50 million held in escrow.

That’s one-fourth of the total authorized for all projects in GRIP— also known as Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership.

While work on the RailRunner is proceeding full speed, other road projects authorized in the GRIP bill have moved to the back burner for lack of funding.

Over the past year, the GRIP funding shortfall has gone from $250 million to nearly $500 million.

It’s a cash crunch created by what some lawmakers say is the need for more money for the RailRunner, increased costs for road construction and a projected decline in federal transportation funding.

The Legislature’s attempt this year to gain more oversight of train finances proved futile. Richardson line-item vetoed language in the appropriations bill that would have required a separate RailRunner operating budget and quarterly reports on its progress and anticipated expenses.

In the five months since that veto, commuter rail capital costs have grown by 33 percent, legislators learned recently.

Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces, said he feels the Legislature was deceived as to the project’s true costs.

“How can you miss the mark five fold without deliberately being deceptive? What we’ve had here is bait and switch,” Rawson said.

Are we really going to allow this bait and switch to happen TWICE?