Governor nixes junior spending bill, stripping funding from new language access mandate

Advocates uncertain about how the state will meet its legal obligations

By: - March 9, 2022 8:18 pm

(Getty Images)

Hundreds of projects statewide had their funding cut by a veto from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. 

Wednesday was the last day for the governor to act on legislation that passed during this year’s 30-day legislative session that ended on Feb. 17. 

Senate Bill 48 was vetoed. The spending bill appropriated $50.4 million to cover everything from measures addressing food insecurity in Bernalillo County, youth recreation programs in Doña Ana County and lights for a library in Cibola County.

The measure, commonly referred to as the junior bill in the Roundhouse, was considered by the governor to be fiscally irresponsible. 

In her veto message, Lujan Grisham wrote that SB 48 “circumvents the important budget and capital outlay process that forms the basis for other larger appropriations bills.

The governor did sign the general appropriations bill and the capital outlay bill.

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“Many of the projects listed in SB 48 are not fully funded — leaving open the possibility that money will be wasted on projects that will never be completed,” the governor wrote. 

The bill also included money for legislation passed during the session that was signed into law by the governor, leaving advocates wondering how the state will pay for their new legal obligation. 

Sachi Watase from the New Mexico Asian Families Center was part of the coalition that passed requirements for state agencies to offer greater language access services — translators and interpreters — to people who do not speak English. 

“It is a little bit complicated because the bill has passed and has been signed into law but there is now no funding associated with it,” Watase said. “And so it could be challenging for these agencies to then be able to create these plans and do what the bill requires them to do without having a dedicated person who this funding could have potentially hired or supported. They may struggle to be able to follow through on those plans.”

The legislation originally asked for money out of the general fund, but that was taken out during a committee. Pulling $110,000 in recurring funds from the junior bill instead, it passed both chambers. 

The measure was signed by the governor last week. She did not respond to a request for comment asking for further explanation of the veto for the initiative’s funding. 

State aid and services about to become more accessible language-wise

Watase is unsure about other projects in the bill but said she is confident the services required under HB 22, including an analysis of languages used by people who access state services for food and health care, are ready to go and will be completed if funded. 

“I don’t actually know which way it’s going to go or what that means at this point, but it could mean that each of these agencies are required to just figure it out on their own and just with the funding they already have,” she said.

The Department of Health was supposed to get $1.3 million from the junior bill to pay for projects such as a statewide dance program for low-income students, and an expansion of STD and HIV testing and prevention services. 

More than $2.6 million was slated for Public Education Department services — programs such as media literacy, youth film training, an activity bus in Animas and agricultural equipment for outdoor classrooms in Hobbs.

A full list of the projects denied funding by the veto can be viewed here.

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Most recently he covered Indigenous affairs with New Mexico In Depth. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.