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Mayor Berry to ask lawmakers for help with city’s budget woes

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry

SANTA FE, N.M. — Mayor Richard Berry will ask state lawmakers this year to avoid adding to Albuquerque’s budget pain.

The Legislature faces its own budget challenges, of course, including a projected $69 million deficit this year.

But protecting revenue sources for Albuquerque – including money distributed by the state to cities and counties – is among Berry’s top priorities for the 60-day legislative session, which began Tuesday.

One option lawmakers are considering is a reduction in the “hold-harmless” payments the state makes to local governments. The payments are meant to compensate cities and counties for not taxing food.

The payments are already being phased out slowly, but Berry will ask lawmakers to avoid accelerating the phaseout, which is already expected to cost Albuquerque about $6.5 million next year.

Among Berry’s other priorities is a familiar request – asking state lawmakers to approve a bill allowing retired police officers to return to work without putting their pensions on hold. The idea has failed to win state approval in the past.

The mayor also said he also supports “any legislation that will make New Mexico a worse place to be a criminal,” including making it a hate crime to harm a police officer.

He is also looking for financial help addressing Albuquerque’s backlog of untested rape evidence kits and for money to continue developing the Innovate ABQ site Downtown, where the city, University of New Mexico and others are building a hub for high-tech businesses and student research.