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          Front Page


January 27, 2003

Spending Bill Sent To Governor

By Barry Massey
The Associated Press
SANTA FE   —   Gov. Bill Richardson is getting a chance to sign his first piece of legislation.
    Lawmakers on Monday approved a $20 million bill to finance operations of the Legislature and pay for additional staff in the governor's office.
    The spending measure headed to the governor after the House agreed on a voice vote to a Senate-passed version of the bill. The Senate had added $50,000 to the bill for jury and witness costs in the state court system.
    Republicans, as they did last week when the measure was initially debated by the House, objected that money for the governor had been inserted into what traditionally has been a bill only to finance the Legislature.
    Rep. Max Coll, D-Santa Fe, chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said lawmakers needed to push through the bill quickly to ensure that legislative staff   —   and legislators   —   are paid on schedule at the end of the week.
    "We do need to make a payroll," said Coll.
    Richardson, who is expected to sign the measure into law, has three days to act on the legislation.
    Overall, the legislation provides:
      —  Nearly $6.9 million for the operations of the Legislature during its 60-day session. That covers salaries of temporary House and Senate employees and operations of a telephone switchboard and bill distribution system.
      —  Almost $11.7 million for year-round operations of the Legislature. The money is for the Legislature's permanent budget and education committees; leadership staff and offices of the House and Senate clerks; the Legislative Council Service, which handles research and bill-drafting duties; and study committees that meet when lawmakers aren't in session.
      —  $793,500 for the governor's office and $78,200 for the lieutenant governor's office. Richardson requested the additional money to pay for 10 additional staff members in his office and to open a two-person state of New Mexico office in Washington, D.C.
      —  $520,000 for upgrades to the fire alarm and security system in the Capitol.
      —  $297,000 for pay raises for legislative employees through changes in the pay scale.