August 18, 2016

Gov: Legislative session for budget likely next month

Gov. Susana Martinez will call the Legislature into a special session, likely next month, to deal with the state’s massive budget problems.

Gov. Susana Martinez

Gov. Susana Martinez

The Associated Press reported the news Thursday, the first time the governor put any sort of time frame on the session. She told the wire service the special session would likely take place next month.

Martinez and others say they prefer a short special session—likely one that takes just hours—to save on the costs. This means the discussions on how to deal with the budget deficit will largely take place behind the scenes, without public input or transparency.

At issue is that New Mexico’s revenue plummeted along with the prices of oil and gas, which New Mexico depends on to balance the budget. The oil and gas bust caused job losses, leading to not only less money coming in directly from oil and gas, but also from corporate income taxes from oil and gas companies and personal income taxes from those laid off from the companies.

Exactly how big of a hole New Mexico is in for the recently-ended fiscal year won’t be known until next week, when the Interim Legislative Finance Committee hears an update on the budget situation.

Already, legislators have looked at using the final reserves to plug the gap. The balancing of the budget during last year’s legislative session required taking hundreds of millions of dollars from reserves and other funds to pay for operating expenses.

Martinez previously said she would not go back on her pledge not to increase taxes to raise revenue. And Democrats said recently they will not agree with any cuts to education.

With Speaker of the House Don Tripp, R-Socorro, indicating that the tens of millions of dollars in LEDA funding, a top priority of Martinez, are off-limits, the discussions on how to balance the budget should be interesting.