Governor will call special session to address state’s budget woes

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Gov. Susana Martinez said Thursday she will call the Legislature into special session to address the state’s falling revenues and budget shortfall.

Martinez said her staff “is talking with leaders in the House and Senate in hopes that all parties can be as prepared as possible so the session will be brief,” The Associated Press reported. “While the exact timing is uncertain, Martinez said it will likely happen in September.”

Susana Martinez

Heath Haussamen / NMPolitics.net

Gov. Susana Martinez

Mike Lonergan, a spokesman for the governor, cautioned that there’s still work to do before the governor will call a session.

“The governor has said that yes, there will be a special session,” Lonergan told NMPolitics.net. “But before calling one, we need to move forward in a cautious, diligent, and responsible way that protects New Mexico’s taxpayers. In the meantime, she and her staff continue to meet and be in regular contact with lawmakers in both chambers.”

The state still has to figure out how to make up for money it spent last fiscal year that it didn’t have. The current estimate is that the state ended the fiscal year on June 30 about $150 million in the red, though the Legislative Finance Committee is expected to release a new estimate next week, The Associated Press reported.

This fiscal year’s shortfall is shaping up to be in the range of $300 million to $500 million. And the longer-term outlook, a recent legislative presentation states, is “gloomy.”

The state’s budget problems are largely caused by sinking oil and gas revenues.

Martinez has already issued a directive to executive-branch agencies under her control to “immediately prepare for and begin reducing” general fund spending by “at least” 5 percent. Details on what will be cut haven’t been released. The governor also urged legislative, judicial, and executive agencies not under her control to do the same.

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Democrats, in the meantime, have been urging the governor to call a session. Some Democrats want to consider tax increases and other revenue generators in addition to budget cuts, but Martinez has said she won’t consider tax hikes.

Two Republican state lawmakers commented on NMPolitics.net’s Facebook page on Thursday in support of the governor calling a special session.

“I agree we need a special session to get the state finances in order,” wrote Rep. Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch.

“I’m ready to get to work!” wrote Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque.

While the governor has urged a short, half-day session to approve a deal negotiated largely in secret, the N.M. Foundation for Open Government wants legislators to hold public budget discussions.

“The impact of the budget decision will be felt all over the state, and the public can’t be shut out of the process,” Gregory P. Williams, president of the foundation’s Board of Directors, has said.

“New Mexicans need to be able to participate, and not just read about the result in the newspaper,” Williams said.

This breaking news article has been updated to include comments from Lonergan, Nuñez and James.

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