April 6, 2017

The green chile cheeseburger didn’t halt bipartisan budget

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

The best thing that may be said about Republican State Representative Rod Montoya’s recent opinion piece regarding the state budget was that it was highly misleading.  While mostly rehashing tired attacks on Democrats heard during election time – and short on any specifics—his main point in writing seems to be to accuse the legislative majority of “wast[ing] time on green chile legislation” while important issues went supposedly unaddressed during the legislative session. Nothing, as they say, could be further from the truth.

First of all, the Legislature did pass a balanced budget for next year, FY ’18. That budget, which now sits on the Governor’s desk, was responsible and bipartisan—at least in the Senate where it passed 34 to 4. Unlike the reckless one offered by Governor Martinez and her uber-partisan Republican helpers like Rep. Montoya in the House, it prevents any further cuts to K-12 classrooms and other key services such as law enforcement. Importantly it replenishes our budget reserves to avoid another downgrade of the state’s bond rating. Another downgrade would cost New Mexico additional millions in future borrowing. We can’t afford that.

Linda Lopez is a Democratic State senator from Albuquerque representing the 11th District. She is also the chair of the Senate Rules Committee.

State Sen. Linda Lopez

For three years we have cut schools and essential services to the bone.  Cutting more is no longer an option. That is why Democrats and Republicans alike in the Senate made the courageous decision to pass a revenue package with strong bipartisan agreement, 34 to 4, which protects public education, health care and public safety on a recurring basis. We also passed the most significant tax reform legislation in a generation, but apparently Rep. Montoya is unaware of it.

Rep. Montoya himself voted ‘No’ on emergency funding to keep state courts open this year. Had his view prevailed, criminals might have been necessarily turned loose on the streets, according to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. That’s not responsible legislating.

In a sometimes grueling 60-day session, the Legislature spent mere moments on naming the green chile cheeseburger the state’s favorite food. In the Senate it actually died in the Rules Committee without even being discussed. It wasn’t Democrats alone who sought out the designation, and it certainly did no harm to the legislature’s impressive, material accomplishments for the people of our state.

The Governor should do the right thing and sign the budget and the revenue package—both are responsible, both are bipartisan. If she wants to stand in the way of this grown-up solution, she should at least articulate now what services she wants to cut and eliminate instead of fixing the $350 million shortfall New Mexico faces. The Legislature has already solved the problem for her.