Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill passed during the recently-completed legislative special session that cut spending in most state agencies, but used her line-item veto authority to spare “below-the-line” funding for the Public Education Department. The bill was part of the effort to solve a budget problem that is estimated to leave the state hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole. This education funding, which restored the $22 million the version passed by the Legislature, goes towards projects of PED that are not part of the state equalization guarantee, the formula that seeks to provide equal funding per student across the state. These funds go towards programs like the controversial merit pay program as well as popular programs like “breakfast after the bell” and after-school programs.
Democrats and Martinez’s administration have clashed over some of the funding since she was first sworn in. Martinez slammed the Legislature for passing the bill with those education cuts intact (though the House version subtracted the cuts from $25 million to $22 million).
Gov. Susana Martinez signed two budget bills that the Legislature passed during the recent, contentious special session. One of those bills will move money from various funds to the general fund to pay for the budget deficit for both the fiscal year that ended in June and the current fiscal year. The bulk of that money comes from the tobacco settlement permanent fund. Martinez signed the bill without any line-item vetoes. The other bill deals with tax credits.
Earlier, we let you know what happened over the first weekend of the special session. The last 24 hours of this year’s special session were crammed with action as the House sought to finish their work before the Senate was forced to come back Thursday shortly before noon. NM Political Report was there from the beginning of the the special session last Friday, through the 21-hour House marathon that spanned from Wednesday morning to early Thursday morning and when the Senate adjourned sine die for the second time—this time putting an end to the chaotic special session. Here are the stories from NM Political Report on from Wednesday and Thursday at the special session. Senate accepts House budget changes, ends special session House passes ‘sweeps’ bill to address budget deficit House sends death penalty reinstatement to the Senate House debates on whether to debate death penalty in the early, early morning Bill to slash budget passes House Critics use same arguments against corporate tax cuts, film incentives
The final hours of the 2016 special session were among the most surreal I’ve spent at the Roundhouse. The strangeness peaked just before 12:45 a.m. The House sent a bill to slash the budget back to the Senate, with some changes after hours of debate. After just minutes of discussion, a tax package went from the House over to the Senate. Then, the House kept going—for the rest of the night. Let’s back up.
After a marathon all-nighter in the House that mostly involved debate to reinstate the death penalty, the state Senate moved briskly Thursday morning to adopt the House changes to budget fixes and adjourn. The move brought an end to a chaotic special legislative session, which began last Friday. Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, lamented that the Senate did not hear crime bills passed by the House. Yet he spoke highly of the House’s budget compromise with the Senate, which scaled back proposed higher education cuts that singled out the University of New Mexico. “There seemed to be a little bit of overemphasis on popping UNM a little too hard,” Ingle told reporters after the session.
The House sent the one bill truly necessary during this year’s special session back to the Senate with some changes. The bill would find unused money in reserves and “sweep” them to the general fund, to pay the rest of the deficit in an already-concluded budget year and to cut much of the current year’s deficit. In all, it would add $316 million, the bulk of which comes from the tobacco settlement permanent fund, to fix the budget deficit. In the bill, $131 million will go to the budget year that ended on June 30. Another $88 million from that would go toward the current fiscal year for this year’s budget gap.
After a three hour debate before the sun rose on Thursday morning, the House voted to bring the death penalty back to New Mexico on a narrow vote. The 36-30 party-line vote came after emotional testimony and debate, largely from Democrats. The proposal now heads to the Senate, though it appears very unlikely that the chamber will take up the effort before the end of the special session. Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, introduced her bill by listing the five police officers who were killed while on duty in the last 18 months, then listing some of the children who were murdered in recent months. Her proposal would only apply, Youngblood said, “When a child is murdered, when a law enforcement officer is murdered or a corrections officer is murdered.”
The debate came after two hours of debate on an appeal by Democrats that the public was not given enough time ahead of time to be told the House would consider the bill.
The House spent the first hours of Thursday debating on whether or not they should debate a bill to bring back the death penalty in New Mexico. Shortly before 12:45 a.m., Speaker of the House Don Tripp, R-Socorro, sought to introduce a new calendar that had just one item: The death penalty bill. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, immediately objected and appealed the ruling of the chair. This led to a parade of Democrats criticizing Tripp’s ruling. The House finally voted to uphold Tripp’s ruling, on a party-line vote, at 2:45 a.m. on a party-line 35-32 vote.
The House voted to pass a large bill related to budget cuts Wednesday night, sending the amended bill back to the Senate, who are expected to be back in the Roundhouse Thursday. It took a full three hours of debate, largely on a large amendment put forward by Republicans. Republicans, however, paused the debate and went into caucus for three and a half hours (Democrats held a shorter caucus at the same time). The final bill passed on a 36-32 vote. The amendment passed on a 36-32 vote.
Legislators on opposing sides of the aisle are using remarkably similar arguments on two bills that would delay tax breaks and subsidies to businesses to help balance New Mexico’s projected $460 million shortfall between last year and this year. One would delay incoming corporate tax cuts for two years, saving the state an estimated $13.8 million this fiscal year, according to the Legislative Finance Committee,
The other bill would generate $20 million by cutting New Mexico’s film industry subsidy by that much this year. While both bills bear similarities in delaying tax breaks and subsidies for businesses, they’re being both supported and opposed on nearly opposite partisan lines. Democratic leadership in the Roundhouse argued that businesses must participate in the “shared sacrifice” of cuts to solve the state’s budget crisis when supporting the corporate tax cut delays that the Senate passed last weekend. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, emphasized this point when criticizing proposed cuts to services in the Republican budget plan Monday morning in his office.