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Martinez Nukes State Budget

Martinez Nukes State Budget

Higher Education Spending Cut

Gov. Susana Martinez on Friday nuked a state budget package approved by the Legislature, making it a certainty that lawmakers will be called back into a special session in the near future.

Martinez said she eliminated the higher education funding because lawmakers “refused” to hold nomination hearings for regents of several higher education institutions.

“This is a clear violation of its [the Legislature’s constitutional duty,” Martinez said in her veto message. “When the Senate appropriated three quarters of a billion dollars to these institutions, it also took the unprecedented step of refusing to hold a hearing for those responsible for the oversight of the appropriated public dollars. Both the funding for our higher education institutions and the confirmation of well-qualified regents can be addressed in the upcoming special session.”

On Thursday, Martinez said she hadn’t decided on when to call the special session, but added that she wanted it to be short.

Friday’s budget nuking brought outrage from some lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat, called Martinez’s action “outrageous.”

“Governor Martinez has chosen to play extreme political games rather than act responsibly,” Wirth said in a statement. “Her attempt to use line-item vetoes to eliminate an entire branch of government and every higher education institution is outrageous.”

House Speaker Rep. Brian Egolf, another Santa Fe Democrat, said that Martinez’s budget actions were “beyond the pale.”

“Her vetoes of all funding for EVERY higher education institution in the state and the entire Legislative branch of government are unconstitutional and have provoked a constitutional crisis,” Egolf said in a statement. “By today’s actions, the Governor is turning her back on the bipartisan and responsible solution offered to her by the Legislature.”

In vetoing the tax package, House Bill 202, the governor said it was another failed attempt at tax reform.

“From the beginning, I have said that I will not raise taxes, yet the Legislature continues to try to force tax increases on New Mexican families and small businesses,” Martinez said. “I have also said many times that I will consider truly comprehensive tax reform, tax reform that results in a simpler, more stable and more predictable tax code.”

Martinez said the bill would have raised the gasoline tax by ten cents a gallon, and the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax. “This bill would hit low-income and middle-class New Mexico families the hardest,” Martinez said.

In a statement about her hyper-budget cutting, Martinez blamed the Legislature for making “reckless decisions” that left “New Mexico hanging in the balance.”

“They wasted 60 days in Santa Fe on bills like official state songs and dances,” Martinez said. “And sadly, for the people of New Mexico, they left little to show – except for an unbalanced budget and one of the largest tax increases in history.”

Martinez added: “In the coming weeks, I will call the Legislature back to Santa Fe to finish the job they were supposed to do in the first place. I believe that by working together, we can balance the budget – without tax increases. While I am disappointed in them, I am optimistic that we an come together.”

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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