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Thursday, January 30, 2003

Gov. Signs Bill To Pay for Session

By David Miles
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE Gov. Bill Richardson on Wednesday signed his first bill, a $20.2 million spending measure that includes $871,700 for his office and the office of the lieutenant governor.
    The Democratic governor said enactment of the so-called feed bill, which traditionally is used to pay for legislative operations, marks a "new era of cooperation" between the legislative and executive branches.
    "I was pleased that the Legislature and the governor worked together to approve our joint operations," Richardson said.
    Republicans objected to Richardson's unusual move of asking legislators to include executive branch appropriations in what traditionally is the Legislature's "feed bill" $793,500 to pay for 10 additional staffers in his office and related costs for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. He also requested $78,200 for the Lieutenant Governor's Office.
    House Minority Leader Ted Hobbs, R-Albuquerque, on Wednesday said including money for the executive branch in the feed bill might give the public the false impression that legislative expenses are rising substantially.
    "This is messing up the system," Hobbs said. "This is a legislative feed bill."
    The spending measure (HB 1 substitute) includes $6.9 million for legislative operations during the 60-day session. That figure represents an increase of less than 1 percent over the amount appropriated for the 2001 session, the last time lawmakers met for 60 days.
    The law, which takes effect immediately, also contains $11.6 million for year-round legislative expenses and $297,000 to provide pay raises to about 175 full-time legislative staffers.