Gov. Susana Martinez isn’t one to shy away from a fight. She’s clearly waging a war in the final days of the legislative session, vetoing several bills without any explanation.
A woman who has billed herself as the most transparent governor in New Mexico’s history isn’t explaining the vetoes. Meanwhile, she’s killing bills that passed with widespread bipartisan support related to economic development, education and other issues.
Martinez killed six bills on Wednesday alone without giving any explanation in her veto messages. And her spokesmen didn’t respond when asked by NMPolitics.net why Martinez vetoed the bills.
The governor has reason for anger. The chair of the Senate Rules Committee, Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, hasn’t held confirmation hearings for most of the governor’s appointees. Martinez’s priority bills, like mandatory retention for third-grade students who can’t read at grade level, have lingered without being given hearings in time to move through the legislative process. When the governor took time to write a lengthy explanation for her veto of legislation that would forbid penalizing teachers on evaluations for using their sick leave, the Senate overrode the veto. And some lawmakers accused Martinez of pay-to-play — a charge the governor has denied — because of legislation that would have benefited campaign contributors.
Is all of that why Martinez is now vetoing bill after bill after bill? Instead of explaining, the governor is expressing anger on social media.
“Within hours of informing the Senate that I would not support their huge stand-alone tax increases on food and gas, the Senate chose to try to override my veto of a union-backed bill, knowing they do not have the votes in the House to succeed,” Martinez wrote Tuesday on Facebook. “Rather than embracing broad-based tax reform that provides for a lower and more fair tax rate for all, the Senate wants to jam through massive tax increases on our families. I will continue to advocate for real tax reform that helps create jobs and is fair to New Mexicans.”
That statement is at least half true. There’s no food tax moving forward publicly. It was discussed by lawmakers from both parties early on, but House Democrats blocked it weeks ago. What’s being discussed behind closed doors isn’t known publicly.
Some Democrats responded to the governor’s vetoes on social media.
“What the governor is doing, by vetoing bi-partisan bills, and giving no reason — is politics. Nothing else,” Rep. Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, wrote on Facebook.
“Gov Martinez ignores jobs crisis in NM today by vetoing my first Broadband Internet bill,” Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, tweeted.
Some citizens expressed frustration too.
“Come on! At least give us a reason behind these vetoes!!” James Robinson of Los Alamos wrote on Facebook.
“Override the veto is the only way to stop veto without explanation,” Michael Swickard of Las Cruces wrote on Facebook.
But with House Republicans hesitant — at least thus far — to join the Senate in overriding Martinez’s veto on the teacher sick-leave bill, it’s unclear that the House would have the votes to override any of the vetoes, no matter how non-controversial the legislation she’s blocking from becoming law. House Republicans have mostly stuck with the governor during the current session.
That gives Martinez significant power in the final days of the session, which ends at noon Saturday.
Martinez isn’t telling the public what she wants. Maybe she’s telling lawmakers. But if they know, they aren’t sharing publicly at this point either.
This article has been updated to clarify language on discussions of a food tax.