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Governor Vows Veto on Pension Plan; State To Tackle Predatory Lending

By Trip Jennings and Gabriela C. Guzman
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE— Gov. Bill Richardson, in a wide-ranging news conference on legislative issues Wednesday, said he would veto a bill to sweeten pensions for state lawmakers.
    The bill to increase lawmakers' pensions cleared both chambers near the end of the 30-day legislative session and would raise the pension for a state lawmaker with 20 years of service by thousands of dollars.
    "That's an easy one," Richardson said of his veto plan.
    Richardson also said Wednesday the state would address through its own regulatory powers or administrative efforts priorities left undone by the Legislature during the session that ended Feb. 16.
    They include:
   
  • Using the state's regulatory power to limit predatory lending.
       
  • Laying the groundwork for an authority that would have the power to condemn land and issue bonds to build electricity transmission lines.
       
  • Meeting with Albuquerque officials to devise a way to come up with more money for new schools in high-growth areas.
        The Legislature failed to deal with predatory lending and a proposed Renewable Energy Transmission Authority and lawmakers might still take them up if the governor calls for a special session, which he is contemplating.
        "Unfortunately, grandstanding killed an innovative effort to pave the way for New Mexicans to deal with predatory lending," Richardson said at the Capitol. "But I am not going to wait for the Legislature to take action."
        Richardson called on the state Regulation and Licensing Department to develop rules limiting predatory lending. They could take effect within 60 days and likely will mirror legislative proposals, said William J. Verant of the department's Financial Institution Division.
        The new rules are necessary because regulations drawn up by Attorney General Patricia Madrid to restrict payday lenders have been challenged in court and are not being enforced, Richardson said.
        Madrid said Wednesday in a written release that she was "keeping an open mind and hoping to learn more about what the governor intends to propose."
        The governor also said that he had met Wednesday with advocates who are pushing for new schools in the west side of Albuquerque.
        Originally, districts in high growth areas were told they would be able to apply for school funding out of a $290 million pot. That amount dwindled to $90 million in the capital-outlay bill approved by the Legislature.
        Close to $115 million is needed for the two West Side high schools.
        Richardson said he believed if Albuquerque and other high-growth school districts came up with local ways to raise funds to help pay for the schools— such as taxes or impact fees— it would remove a potential political obstacle.
        "Those rural legislators who opposed this money for high-growth districts might be more receptive if they see Albuquerque stepping up to the plate," Richardson said.


    E-MAIL writer Trip Jennings and Gabriela C. Guzman