In a sense, this year’s just-completed session of the New Mexico State Legislature has ended in an unfinished battle of the No’s, as in Governor Martinez’s No New Taxes, vs the Democratic Majority in both houses of the Legislature’s translation of the Governor’s stance as No New Jobs, in a state with the highest unemployment rate in the country.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has promised to veto the $6.1 billion state budget bill, primarily because it calls for roughly $350 million in new taxes and other revenue producers. She says she may selectively shut down “non-essential” government services, until a Special Session passes a tax-free budget she finds acceptable.
“Many in the Legislature failed to do their job during the session” was how she summed things up in a new conference. “They took a my way or the highway approach and they actually squandered 60 days. Now we’re staring down the path of a government shutdown.”
The Democrats, led by Senate Finance Committee Chair John Arthur Smith are responding – “bring it on.”
“That is the executive’s prerogative that she can exercise if she wants to give up additional jobs in the state of New Mexico,” Smith said. “We’ve lost 3,000 jobs in higher education in the last three years. We’ve lost over 6,000 in southeast New Mexico. We’ve lost 1,600 jobs on the behavior health deal. Now she’s saying we haven’t lost enough jobs is what I’m hearing. The last thing we need is more job loss.”
This fight will have to end some time this year, but’s real climax will come next year, when the lame duck Governor’s successor, and a new roster in the Legislature will be elected.
Which is not to say the 60-day Legislative session didn’t act on other important non-budgetary matters.
There were heavily compromised reforms on the use of solitary confinement, and an interest rate limit on predatory loans, and slow, incomplete progress towards a code of Ethics.
There were clear-cut decisions to reform campaign contribution transparency, to ban coyote-killing contests, and prevent lottery officials from reducing the 30% share of the profits going to college scholarships.
And there was a sudden storm of gubernatorial vetoes of bills that had passed both houses with overwhelming bi-partisan support. The vetoes were sustained when Republicans went with Gov. Martinez and against their own previous, some might say better judgments.
Matthew Reichbach is the editor of the NM Political Report. The former founder and editor of the NM Telegram, Matthew was also a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and part of the original hirings at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation and formerly published, “The Morning Word,” a daily political news summary for NM Telegram and the Santa Fe Reporter. A native New Mexican from Rio Rancho, Matthew’s family has been in New Mexico since the 1600s.