August 1, 2016

Group wants transparency in budget discussion

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

One group that advocates for transparency in government doesn’t like the talk about legislators and the executive branch crafting a budget ahead of a potential special session. At least, not if it takes back room talks to make the deal go through.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government says the process of building a deal on the state budget should be done transparently. Legislators and Gov. Susana Martinez cite the cost of a special session, tens of thousands of dollars per day, as a reason to have a deal in place before legislators meet.

“FOG is sympathetic to the cost of a special session, but these critical budgetary decisions cannot be made behind closed doors,” Gregory P. Williams, president of the FOG Board of Directors, said in a statement. “The impact of the budget decision will be felt all over the state, and the public can’t be shut out of the process. New Mexicans need to be able to participate, and not just read about the result in the newspaper.”

Martinez said last week she hoped for a “four-hour session.”

“We walk in and walk out,” she said.

It wouldn’t be unprecedented. In fact, the Legislature passed a complicated and expensive bill in a four-hour special session just one year ago.

That time, the Legislature passed a capital outlay bill and adjourned after just hours. There were few dissenting votes.

“We worked really hard before we called a special session to come to agreements that we would walk in and have those agreements in hand,” Martinez told reporters at the time.

The agreements came before legislators stepped foot in the Roundhouse for the special session.