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Compromise in Santa Fe

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By Optic Editorial Board

Tuesday begins a 60-day session of the New Mexico Legislature, and it promises to be a rowdy one. There’s a contest for president pro tem, between Pete Campos of Las Vegas and Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces on the Senate side, a power void left in the House with the absence of the late Ben Lujan, and a governor who is already putting on the gloves to fight for her proposed budget. It all promises to be great entertainment for political animals statewide.

But of course we don’t need entertainment. We need some good governing. We need some responsible leaders who are willing to meet over responsible leaders halfway.

A lack of compromise — at least until the very last moment possible — is the reason why the U.S. Congress looks so pathetically inept in Washington, D.C. these days. It would be nice to see better behavior in Santa Fe, N.M. starting this week.

And a great place to start would be the budget itself. Even with a projected surplus Gov. Susana Martinez appears determined not to follow her predecessor’s lead (Gov. Bill Richardson wasn’t a “saver” when it came to budgetary matters). Instead, she wants to be fiscally conservative, and that’s to her credit. The state needs to be frugal with taxpayer funds, saving some money for a rainy day.

But her budget is also bringing out opposing forces, such as those who want to see across-the-board pay increases for state employees — something that hasn’t happened since 2008. That too is a reasonable request and should be on the table as budget negotiations get under way.

Seems as if the stage is set for a compromise budget and we hope it leads to that.

We’d prefer a tight budget, something that tucks away money for leaner times, to add to a healthy reserve, but we’d also like to see raises for all state employees. We think both can be done — if the governor and lawmakers are willing to hammer out the details. It’s a big budget, with plenty of wiggle room. And the best tool on the table is reasonable compromise on both sides.

So far, Gov. Martinez hasn’t been much of a compromiser, and that’s one reason why, halfway through her first term, she doesn’t have many accomplishments to brag about. She could change that, starting with this session. Moreover, lawmakers need to bend a little in the interest of getting things done.

If our governor and lawmakers all play nicely in the weeks ahead, maybe Congress will take notice and follow their example. Then again, we suppose that’s asking for way too much.