Professional mediator takes on New Mexico budget impasse

The New Mexico State Capitol, known as 'The Roundhouse.'

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – He is a mild-mannered professional mediator who negotiates out-of-court resolutions to legal disputes.

In his unsalaried job as the next New Mexico state Senate majority leader, Democrat Peter Wirth is positioned as a chief powerbroker for high-stakes decisions about plunging state revenues and essential government services.

Wirth says his challenge is keeping the doors of government open and protecting programs that are economic drivers. And that could mean raising more tax dollars from gasoline sales, corporate income taxes or even the legalization of recreational marijuana – ideas that have been anathema to the state’s second-term GOP governor.

Wirth says the best opportunities for political compromise involve limits on misguided tax exemptions, deductions and credits, areas where influential industry lobbies will certainly stand in the way.

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