The Roundhouse in Santa Fe in December 2021 (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)
Two weeks from now, New Mexico lawmakers are scheduled to meet in a special session to again consider funding vetoed by the governor earlier this month — and a new proposal to try to help some New Mexicans deal with rising costs of living.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham vetoed a $50 million spending bill a couple of weeks ago, arguing the proposed expenses are irresponsible and unwise, and pointing to some of the projects not being fully funded.
Rep. Roger Montoya (D-Velarde) warned the governor’s actions would “have grave and consequential effects for our seniors, youth, rural and tribal communities, veterans and nonprofits.”
He said Lujan Grisham’s veto would cause closures of critical programs, inhibit funding for rural and frontier communities, and stall numerous nonprofits throughout the state working on education, substance abuse, behavioral health, arts, water and traditional acequia infrastructure.
The day after the veto, he urged lawmakers to immediately convene an extraordinary session to override Lujan Grisham’s veto — though that kind of maneuver takes a favorable vote by three-fifths of the Legislature and has only ever happened once in N.M. in 2002, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
“The governor’s disregard for the work me and my colleagues have done to fulfill our duties and responsibilities to our communities is deeply troubling,” he said.
An extraordinary session didn’t happen, but on Friday, the governor and legislative leaders announced they will hold a special session beginning on April 5 to consider a revised junior bill.
Special sessions are limited to topics that the governor allows in a proclamation, according to the state constitution.
Montoya said in an interview Monday his main goal in calling for an extraordinary session was to restore funding to the projects in the junior bill and “to drive equity so that our voices weren’t diminished.”
He said it seems like that is going to happen during the special session. He is grateful for that, Montoya said, and hopes that the Legislature will quickly move past the special session, though he is a little worried because the Governor’s Office could introduce other bills and prospects.
Some of the projects in Montoya’s district eliminated by the governor’s veto:
- $320,000 to the North Central New Mexico Economic Development District to help rural communities apply for grants from the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act (includes money from Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, and Sen. Leo Jaramillo, D-Española)
- $100,000 to Luna College to help build a mentoring and support program for rural youth to go to college (includes $50,000 from Jaramillo)
- $100,000 for the Sostenga Farm project at Northern New Mexico College (includes $50,000 from Jaramillo)
- $50,000 for Film Prize Junior New Mexico, a statewide initiative to pair industry professionals with high school digital media and literacy classes
“It is my distinct hope that it will be surgical and clean, that we can move past this as quickly in-and-out as we can, and move forward to the primary,” he said.
During the special session lawmakers are also expected to consider proposals to provide economic relief to residents facing rising food and fuel prices, according to the Governor’s Office and legislative leadership.
“As prices remain high nationwide, it is clear that we must act swiftly to deliver more relief to New Mexicans,” Lujan Grisham said in the announcement. “Across the state, families are facing hard choices: can they afford to take their kids to school, to drive to work, to buy baby formula. It is our responsibility to do what we can to ease that burden.”
Montoya said lawmakers need to be really thoughtful about how, who and why people will get a rebate, and how much. The proposed rebates are linked to tax returns, which doesn’t necessarily link directly to drivers who most need it, he said.
He asked about businesses that use vehicles and whether drivers need to file taxes to get a rebate. He also asked if it is fair for rebates to only go to heads of households if, for example, a household has multiple drivers within it.
He said House Democrats are talking about “how we might think through a wider range of equitable options on how to dole out the proposed rebate.”
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