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Thursday, May 31, 2007
Chávez Vows to Veto County Funds
By Jim Ludwick
Journal Staff Writer
Mayor Martin Chávez said Wednesday he will renew an effort to get a Jan. 1 tax cut and will veto $9 million in assistance to the county.
The decision, which drew little immediate comment from city councilors, set the stage for a veto override debate at a council meeting Monday.
Councilors last week approved an annual budget after making numerous changes to a proposal from Chávez. They added a payment of $9 million to Bernalillo County to help cover jail expenses.
Chávez had proposed an eighth-cent reduction in gross receipts taxes, effective Jan. 1. Councilors approved the tax cut, but they delayed it for six months to provide the money for Bernalillo County.
On Wednesday, Chávez said he will try to reverse the changes. He will use a line-item veto to erase the $9 million from the budget, then he will back legislation to be introduced by Councilor Ken Sanchez to restore the Jan. 1 effective date of the tax reduction.
In a letter to councilors, Chávez said he's "glad the council voted for my tax cut. Unfortunately, they missed the point. I want to give a tax cut to Albuquerque families immediately. I don't want the City Council to suck out another $9 million from taxpayers" before cutting taxes.
Councilors have argued that the county is strapped for funds and the city shouldn't ignore the need for jail money. Until recently, the city paid half of the cost of jail operations, but Bernalillo County took over the jail last year.
Chávez said Wednesday that there is no obligation to pay $9 million and it would be unfair to city residents. People who live in Albuquerque already cover more than 80 percent of the expense of the jail because they also are residents of Bernalillo County; they would be paying an even higher proportion if they add $9 million in city funds, Chávez said.
It would take six votes on the City Council to override his veto of the $9 million. The budget was approved 6-3, but the delay in the tax cut was approved 5-4.
In his letter to councilors, Chávez said he will encourage Albuquerque voters "to watch what happens and remember that a vote to override this veto is a vote against cutting taxes."
Councilor Brad Winter, who voted against delaying the tax cut but favored the $9 million, had little comment Wednesday evening.
"I have to digest what he's saying, what he wants to do," Winter said.
Council President Debbie O'Malley was unsurprised by the mayor's decision.
"He threatened to do it, and now he did it. We'll deal with it at the meeting," she said.
Roger Mickelson of the Committee for Responsible Budgets, a newly formed group sponsoring radio commercials criticizing the council's budget decisions, had no immediate reaction Wednesday.