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Politics Notebook: NM’s quick special session a model of efficiency

New Mexico’s recently completed special legislative session was a model of efficiency compared with what several other states are going through.

As of earlier this week, lawmakers in at least two states – Alaska and Washington – were already on their second special sessions of this year, according to The Associated Press.

In Alaska, the two such sessions there lasted for 45 days – with just a few minutes separating them – before legislators there finally approved a new budget plan Thursday.

Meanwhile, Florida and Illinois legislators were also mired in multiday special sessions due to budget crunches in those states.

This week’s special session in Santa Fe, held Monday, was only slightly longer than the average professional baseball game – 4 hours and 20 minutes, to be precise.

It will end up costing taxpayers an estimated $50,000. Lawmakers had budgeted more money in a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Susana Martinez, but much of that will not be immediately spent and instead will be held in reserve for future use.

STANDING FIRM: The Republican Party of New Mexico did not waste much time dinging Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, for his vote against a tax break package approved by the Legislature during the special session.

On the day of the special session, the state GOP sent out a news release claiming Sapien had sided against working families by opposing the tax package.

“Senator Sapien has proven time and time again that he is out of touch with his constituents,” Republican Party spokesman Pat Garrett said.

Sapien, a two-term senator, represents a swing district – it includes Corrales, Placitas and parts of Bernalillo and Albuquerque – and is expected to face a tough re-election campaign in 2016.

However, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Friday that he is not backing down from his vote.

“Other than the medical reimbursement, the rest of the bill was bad tax policy,” Sapien told the Journal, referring to a provision in the tax bill that would re-enact a tax deduction on out-of-pocket medical expenses used by as many as 300,000 New Mexicans per year.

Sapien also said he believes “real tax reform” is needed.

The tax package passed the Senate via a 31-11 vote. All but one of the 11 “no” votes were cast by Democrats – Sen. William Sharer of Farmington was the only Republican who voted against the bill.

Dan Boyd: dboyd@abqjournal.com.

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