Federal spending cuts will have local impact

Posted at: 02/25/2013 6:26 PM
Updated at: 02/25/2013 6:27 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

"Devastating" is a word you hear a lot these days at the New Mexico State Capitol when people talk about the impacts of the federal "sequester" budget cuts on our state.

Spending cuts and job furloughs are looming dead ahead as the Friday deadline approaches with no sign of a compromise to head them off.

Let's start with defense cutbacks. The state would lose about 7,000 civilian defense employees on furlough to save the feds $42 million.

Education? Schools here could lose $6.1 million - that means about 80 teachers and teacher’s aides in K-12 schools. Programs for kids with disabilities could lose another $4.4 million and about 50 teaching jobs.

In health care, there would be less money for vaccinations for childhood diseases. There would be less money for meals for senior citizens.

Gov. Susana Martinez is keeping an eye on any chance for a last minute compromise between Congress and the White House.

"It's scary not to know what's going to happen," the governor told us in an interview in her office Monday. "It's very unpredictable. They're going to kick the can down the road some more, or they're going to impact us immediately - to what degree?"

State Sen. Carlos Cisneros. A senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he is concentrating on creating a lean state budget with lots of reserve money - just in case.

"There is no question that if the sequester issue becomes fact, becomes law at the federal level, New Mexico will be devastated," the Questa Democrat said.

Gov. Martinez said she hopes Democratic and Republican state lawmakers can find common ground on her proposals to attract more private sector employers to the state. Those ideas include a substantial cut in the corporate income tax, to make New Mexico more competitive with other states in the region.

"New Mexico will be impacted at a greater level than any other state, probably, in the United States," Martinez said. "That's because we have four military bases and the two labs, Sandia and Los Alamos."

Leaders at both labs have issued statements to employees saying that while they don't foresee any immediate impact, they are planning for longer-term future budget cuts that may require adjustments.