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.
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 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.
Gov. Susana Martinez officially issued the proclamation for a special session, less than 24 hours before legislators are scheduled to gather to discuss a solution to the state’s large budget deficit and other issues Martinez placed on the call. In addition to filling the budget deficit, Martinez will allow legislators to discuss legislation to reinstate the death penalty for certain crimes, expand the state’s three strike law and life imprisonment for intentional child abuse resulting in the death of a child. Legislators can only discuss items Martinez puts on the call during a special session. The special session is necessary to deal with a nearly $600 million budget deficit from this year and a recently-completed budget year. Legislators and the governor are required by the state constitution to balance the budget each year.