Rep. Miguel Garcia

State Rep. challenges governor’s vetoes of tax omnibus

Near the end of the 2023 New Mexico Legislative Session, the legislature passed a tax omnibus bill that was eventually signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The tax omnibus bill, HB 547, took about a month to reach the final version that both the state House and state Senate agreed to send to Lujan Grisham for her consideration. 

Lujan Grisham approved the bill with heavy line-item vetoes. Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, filed for a writ of mandamus in the New Mexico Supreme Court on Wednesday. The filing stated that Lujan Grisham did not have the constitutional right to line item veto any of the tax omnibus bill since it did not include any appropriation. A writ of mandamus is a court order to a government official “compelling performance of a ministerial act that the law recognizes as an absolute duty… it is used only when all other judicial remedies have failed,” according to Barron’s Law Dictionary.

Opioid epidemic, public safety among NM projects in appropriations bills

Democratic New Mexican Sen. Martin Heinrich announced Thursday that the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill that allocates $11.8 million for 34 projects in New Mexico. The committee passed the Fiscal Year 2024 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill and Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill Thursday. It goes next to the full Senate. “As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’m proud to have the opportunity to directly advocate for the needs of New Mexicans in our annual government funding legislation,” Heinrich said in a news release. “These bills make substantial investments in the resources law enforcement officials and medical providers need to protect the safety and well-being of families across our state, including by removing barriers to life-saving opioid use disorder treatments and providing more tools to combat the flow of illicit fentanyl… This federal funding will also help promote and nurture the talent and potential we have in New Mexico by supporting our local small businesses, arts organizations, non-profits, and cultural institutions—all vital to strengthening our economy and growing our middle class.”

The appropriations include increased funding for Taxpayer Services at the Internal Revenue Service.

Appropriations for State Auditor pass committee

When newly-elected State Auditor Joseph Maestas took office, he found himself in charge of a budget he had no say in developing. This led to one bill proposal for appropriations that otherwise would have been included in the State Auditor’s Office budget. SB 323 seeks to replace the SAO’s current fraud complaint management system. “We get anonymous complaints of fraud, waste and abuse, by telephone, by email through our website, through various means,” Maestas said. “Intake averages about 300 cases a year.

Guv, legislators take ‘first crack’ at agreement ahead of special session

Gov. Susana Martinez met with legislative leaders Friday morning to discuss a budget fix ahead of the upcoming special session scheduled to start next Wednesday. Martinez’s spokesman, in a statement, called the meeting “productive” and said the governor is confident her office would come to an agreement on funding the coming fiscal year, “including funding for higher education.”

“The Governor reiterated that she will not support standalone tax increases, but is hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan path forward on tax reform,” spokesman Michael Lonergan said. The statement potentially leaves room for tax increases as a part of a comprehensive tax overhaul similar to what state Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, spearheaded during the recent general legislative session. Martinez last week told the Santa Fe New Mexican that she would support reinstating the food tax as part of such a reform—a marked contrast from even just two months ago when she vowed to “definitely veto every tax increase on my desk.”

State House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, however, told NM Political Report that “there is still tremendous uncertainty about what sort of tax reform proposal is going to be offered during the [special] session.”

Egolf described the meeting with Martinez as “a first crack” at agreeing to a budget solution. “It wasn’t really a horse trading kind of thing,” Egolf said.