As expected, lawmakers have sent the governor bills to restore funding for higher education and the Legislature, tax hikes she’s likely to veto, and a bill to let the state borrow future money to balance the budget — but not much else.
Instead of adjourning sine die and ending the session, the House and Senate are taking a break until Tuesday. That means they’re technically staying in session, which gives the governor three days to act on the bills.
Lawmakers are leaving themselves an opportunity to come back next week and respond to possible vetoes or other action by the governor.
A House committee on Thursday rejected a complex, Martinez-backed proposal to reform the state’s gross receipts tax on a party line vote.
During the hearing, Democrats criticized the proposal, partly because of an increase in taxes on health care.
“If we pass this bill as it currently stands, New Mexico would have the highest health insurance rate in the nation,” said the chair of the House Labor and Economic Development Committee, Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces. “House Republicans are proposing a plan that is a lot like Trumpcare in that it balances the budget on the backs of sick people while at the same time carving out exemptions for hedge funds and capital gains for the well-connected.”
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, expressed disappointment after the vote.
“I am disappointed that the Democrats have chosen to continue their dithering while New Mexico’s private sector collapses,” Harper said in a statement.
The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the session.
Even without the bills to raise taxes on gasoline and tax internet sales, which Martinez is expected to veto, Democratic leaders believe they’ve done enough to balance the state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 even with restored higher education and legislative funding.
That would leave the state without any money in reserves and could threaten its bond rating, but they hope it’s at least enough to fulfill the constitutional obligation to balance the budget.
If Martinez vetoes higher education or legislative funding again, the Legislative Council is likely to go back to the Supreme Court to seek an order overturning the governor’s vetoes with an argument that they are unconstitutional. The high court rejected such a petition earlier this month without ruling on its merits, saying there was still time for the legislative and executive branches to resolve their dispute without judicial intervention.
After this session, with the new fiscal year a few weeks away, the high court might see things differently.