Legislature Sues Governor Over Vetoes

by Staff Reporter / Apr 21, 2017 / comments

Legislature Sues Governor Over Vetoes

Staff Report

In a legal move that may eliminate the need for a special legislative session anytime soon, the New Mexico House and Senate leadership filed a petition in the New Mexico Supreme Court against Governor Susana Martinez, alleging her vetoes of specific state entity budgets earlier this month were unconstitutional and therefore should be voided.

Governor Martinez vetoed several items from the budget passed by the New Mexico Legislature in what she says was an effort to force the Democratic led body to renegotiate the budget with her. But what is drawing the legal challenge is that unlike a typical line-item veto, where a governor may veto funding for a specific project or line-item, this year Governor Martinez vetoed all funding for entire state entities created by the New Mexico Constitution. Her vetoes included ALL funding for all higher education universities, Carrie Tingley Hospital, the New Mexico School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind, the Department of Agriculture, and the entire New Mexico Legislature, a constitutionally created co-equal branch of government.

The Legislature’s legal challenge says that the Governor’s line-item veto of entire sections of a bi-partisan supported budget “thereby defunding and effectively eliminating the Legislative Branch of government” was unconstitutional.

In effect, the legal challenge says that a governor may line-item specific programs, but she cannot veto away all funding for other branches of government created in the constitution. Such action amounts to an unconstitutional grab at power by trying to eliminate one of the other branches of government, and that her vetoing entire budgets for other constitutionally created entities is also inherently unconstitutional.  Click HERE to read the entire legal challenge filed today.

The New Mexico Legislature leadership weighed in soon after the petition was filed, with Senate President Pro-Tem Mary Kay Papen saying “The Governor’s political ideology is not above the law” and Speaker of the House Brian Egolf released a statement soon after the challenge was filed saying “We have heard from families across the state who are saying that they do not want the Governor to use our education system as a political pawn. To restore stability to our communities, the Legislature today took legal action to stop the Governor’s unconstitutional vetoes that eliminate all funding for higher education and the Legislature."

If the Governor’s vetoes on these specific items are overturned it will eliminate the urgent need for a special legislative session to rebuild the budget. Funding for all these agencies will be restored to what the budget bill contained when it was sent to the Governor.

What this lawsuit will not solve is the potential for a revenue shortfall. The Governor also vetoed a bill containing $350 million in revenue increases thru fees, a 10 cent gas tax, and ensuring that out of state online vendors such as Amazon pay the same GRT tax that New Mexico businesses must pay.

Although the Governor’s vetoes on these revenue increases is not being challenged, legislative leaders are reporting that projected revenues are stable enough to allow the state to continue operating and avoid a special session, at least until the next fiscal year begins.