Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation that reinstates funding to the Legislature and higher education— two things she vetoed during the regular session. Martinez also partially vetoed a bill that would have moved money from other funds into the state’s general fund. In her message, Martinez criticized the Legislature for taking money from fund balances “that do not exist.”
“We cannot balance a budget with funny money,” Martinez wrote. Martinez also vetoed a proposal to increase gas taxes and permits for gas haulers. “I have said since my first day in office that New Mexicans are overtaxed and state government overspends.”
The Legislature is set to reconvene Tuesday to decide whether to override Martinez’s vetoes or adjourn until next year.
The number of Albuquerque mayoral candidates dwindled by one person Friday afternoon. Former Bernalillo County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta ended her run in a press conference, citing her 86-year-old father’s health. “I have made the difficult decision to step out of the Albuquerque Mayor’s race,” Archuleta wrote in a press release. “My heart is heavy. I love this city and I love the people of Albuquerque.”
Archuleta is caretaking for her father while he recovers from surgery.
Both the House and Senate recessed Thursday afternoon—without officially ending the special session. Now, the governor has three days to take action on four bills aimed at tax changes and reinstating funding to the Legislative branch and institutes of higher education. By recessing until Tuesday instead of adjourning, the House and Senate could still introduce new legislation to replace anything Gov. Susana Martinez might veto. Martinez, in an atypical statement, praised the Legislature for some of their work. “In a bipartisan manner, lawmakers passed my plan to put more funding toward cancer research and student financial aid, while at the same time forfeiting their pork projects and a small portion of their personal legislative retirement accounts to fill the budget hole — something I’ve urged them to do for months,” she said.
It isn’t often that a bill that it seems no one likes passes a legislative chamber, but that happened Wednesday afternoon in the Senate with two different bills. The chamber voted 36-3 to pass a bill that would essentially borrow money to balance the budget, something that no senator said they were happy about. Update: Added information on a third bill passed by the Senate
The Senate also passed a tax package on a 25-16 vote that included an increase in the gas tax and the motor vehicle excise tax as a way to shore up depleted state reserves. Borrowing money to balance budget
Senator John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, each mentioned the idea of using severance tax money to help balance the budget came from the governor’s office. “We do not think it is very responsible, it sets a poor precedent…But in an effort to try and find forward movement with the executive branch, we have swallowed that bill and are willing to do it,” Smith said.
A House panel passed a bill to restore funding vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez for next year for higher education, courts and the state Legislature Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, tax packages that would increase taxes on things like internet sales and gasoline also moved forward. The budget vote came mostly on party lines save for state Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, who joined Democrats in supporting it. Maestas Barnes was also the lone Republican to vote for a failed override attempt of Martinez’s budget vetoes earlier in the day. In total, the bill appropriates roughly $765 million—$745 million for higher education and $19 million for legislative offices—for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
NM Political Report along with the Weekly Alibi and the community group DukesUp.org will host a mayoral forum on May 23. Tickets for the event are free at the Alibi website. Update: Tickets are sold out. Candidates who accepted the invitation were asked to submit their answers to the following question. What costs and/or benefits do you associate with allowing the Albuquerque Police Department to assist in enforcing federal immigration law in Albuquerque?
Keeping tabs on the amount of medical cannabis available throughout the state may seem straightforward, but a review of quarterly reports seem to show more cannabis available for sale than what was grown or produced. While the state’s Department of Health requires producers to accurately track every gram of cannabis—beginning with harvesting and ending with sales—reports from some producers appear to have glaring discrepancies. Through a review of quarterly reports, NM Political Report found that at least five medical cannabis producers who reported sales exceeding the amount of cannabis that they produced. Those five producers reported selling a combined 676,272 grams of cannabis between January and March, but should have only had a combined 475,028 grams available to sell during that period. This means more than 200,000 grams, or 44 pounds, of medical cannabis sold in New Mexico in three months with almost no accounting of where it came from.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall criticized President Donald Trump Tuesday after the Washington Post revealed that the president disclosed classified information to Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office last week. On the Senate floor, Udall said the latest news calls for a “swift” and independent investigation. “The White House and President Trump face another crisis,” Udall said. Udall went on to criticize Trump’s firing of former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey. “The only rational explanation is that he has something to hide,” Udall said.
Another New Mexico Democrat announced his run for governor. Peter DeBenedittis issued a press release Monday detailing his campaign platform. One major point DeBenedittis highlighted in his announcement is that he is a political outsider. “Year after year we’ve seen Democrats talk like they really want to help people during the primaries, then they run to the center for the general election,” DeBenedittis said. “And then if they win, many completely forget what they’ve campaigned on.”
Last year, DeBenedittis gained some attention with his campaign to raise state alcohol taxes to increase state revenue.
Nine candidates have qualified for the Albuquerque mayor ballot and more city races are gearing up, too. While many of the mayoral candidates unsuccessfully attempted to qualify for public financing, a majority of Albuquerque City Council candidates are now collecting $5 contributions with the hope of the same goal. Still, four council candidates have opted to instead raise money through private donations. At least two of them told NM Political Report they don’t think the public should pay for elections. Paul Ryan McKenney, an active member of the state’s Libertarian Party, said he sees public financing as tax dollars misused.