Attempts to override Gov. Susana Martinez’s vetoes of money for higher education and the Legislature failed in the first hour of the special session.
Both the House and Senate moved quickly to attempt the budget veto overrides, a rarity in New Mexico politics.
In the House, state Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, was the only Republican to join all Democrats in voting for the override. The final vote tally was 39-29; the measure needed two-thirds of lawmakers present, or 45 House members, to vote yes to pass.
The motion failed in the House with no debate. State Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Albuquerque, carried the override attempt in the House.
“The extent of the governor’s veto to higher education is truly breathtaking,” Ely said, listing the denial of funding to the University of New Mexico Cancer Center, children’s center and pediatric oncology as casualties of Martinez’s vetoes. “This has had an immediate and devastating effect on our institutions of higher learning. Our best and brightest are leaving the state. Every day that goes by, we are causing damage to the jewels of our community.”
After a short debate in the Senate, lawmakers voted on party lines against overriding Martinez’s vetoes. No Republicans voted to override. It would have taken two Senators to override the veto.
Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said overriding the vetoes would be the “clearest, most direct way” to show support for colleges and universities.
Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Espanola, said “by defunding the entire legislative branch…the governor fundamentally changed the purpose and intent of the general appropriations act.”
He argued that made it a special appropriations bill that “partially funded only two branches of government.”
Rep. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said an override without a revenue package would mean the budget was unbalanced, and so would violate the state constitution.
Sen. Pat Woods, R-Clovis, argued the Legislature should address the budget in a different way besides the overriding the governor’s vetoes.
After the veto override attempts, the two chambers announced the introduction of new budget legislation. The two chambers announced committees would work on the budget bills.
Update: Added more quotes from the Senate.