LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has vetoed major portions of a $6.1 billion spending bill for the coming fiscal year, including funding for higher education and the Legislature.
The Republican governor on Friday said in a veto message the state's Democrat-led Legislature has refused to bear its fair share of reductions in state spending.
"The Legislature has disappointed me in the past, but I cannot recall another time where I've ever felt that their reckless decisions had left New Mexico hanging in the balance," Gov. Martinez," It wasted 60 days in Santa Fe on bills like official state songs and dances, and sadly for the people of New Mexico, they left little to show, except for an unbalanced budget and one of the largest tax increases in state history."
In vetoing funding for state colleges and universities, Martinez chastised the state Senate for refusing to hold hearings on her nominations for regents. She says funding issues for higher-education and political appointments can be addressed during an upcoming special legislative session.
Martinez also has vetoed a capital spending bill that would have restored $46 million in money taken from public school district reserves this year to address a state general fund deficit. The governor favors using those funds instead to shore up state finances and avoid proposed tax increases.
"Because of (the legislature's inaction), state government is running low on money," Martinez added, "We've taken steps to soften the blow. We've instated a hiring freeze. We're looking at furloughing employees as early as this month."
Martinez acknowledged New Mexico is facing a state government shutdown "where our MVDs, museums and state parks may need to close down simply to pay other bills, like keeping the lights on in our classrooms."
Martinez on Thursday renewed criticism of companion legislation to bring in $350 million by increasing taxes on gasoline, hiking permit fees for trucks and reduce tax exemptions on nonprofit hospitals.
"During the session, I provided the Legislature with over $300 million in options to balance the budget. I offered compromise. But the Senate didn't want to come to the table," Martinez said, "Instead, it sent a $350 million tax increase for our families to bear the burden of their inaction. This is not the way to govern."
Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith says the governor's proposals to limit tax revenues and government spending could drive up unemployment and threaten the state's credit rating.