By Elva K. Österreich
Las Cruces Bulletin
New Mexico legislators passed four items during a special session called by Gov. Susana Martinez to get the state budget passed. The session began May 24.
While Martinez signed legislation on May 26 that restores higher education and legislative funding, she vetoed everything the House and Senate had passed during the session that related to tax increases.
According to a story in NMPolitics.net, the budget will be funded for the fiscal year beginning July 1 by using the state’s bonding ability to borrow as much as $100 million which will have to be paid back over the next 20 years.
Rep. Joanne Ferrary (D-37, Las Cruces) said she is pleased that higher education was restored and that it should never have been taken out in the first place.
“We worked hard to have revenue building so our state credit rating would not be further deteriorated,” she said.
The special session ended May 30 after both houses convened at 1 p.m.
“We adjourned after reading in the actions taken by the governor Friday,” said Rep. Nathan Small (D-36, Las Cruces).
Rep. Bill McCamley (D-33, Las Cruces) remains disappointed in the governor, he said.
“When she made the decision to veto (higher education funding during the regular session) she caused so much harm. College students decided not to enroll, many professors decided to take jobs in other places. I know there was no need, yet the governor did it anyway. I don’t know what she was thinking.”
McCamley said there was a 95 percent chance for a 10-minute session Tuesday but that you never know what might come up.
But, he said, basically the state does have a balanced budget and if oil and gas revenues continue as they are, it will stay that way.
“Money that would normally go to infrastructure — roads, buildings, schools — has been converted,” he said. “We are borrowing to pay our regular expenses, but that only gets us to the point of break even. If things stay the same we will get through; if oil and gas prices drop, we’re in some serious problems.”
McCamley also said he doesn’t understand why the governor vetoed an Internet tax legislators passed during the special session. Even the Chamber of Commerce thought it was a good idea, he said. He claims it is unfair to New Mexico businesses that must charge tax on their products when Internet companies like Amazon don’t charge tax. McCamley said other states have passed such taxes and even Amazon is on board.
McCamley also said he doesn’t understand why Martinez vetoed legislation aimed at dropping a tax exemption for hospitals. He said the tax would return money to patients and hospitals through the Medicaid system and it would be better for both in the long run.