SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Governor Susana Martinez and Republican lawmakers spent Saturday teeing off on a budget solvency package approved by the New Mexico Senate before it decided to pack up and head home.
That series of bills uses a wide array of tactics to close a gaping nearly $600 million hole in the state budget.
“We’re going to spend some time doing a much more thorough job than the Senate did and send [those bills] back to the Senate and it’s really up to them at this point if they want to shut down state government,” said House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque.
In a statement, the governor’s office called the package “a flawed hodgepodge”.
Among the areas Republicans most criticized were cuts to K-12 education, CYFD and the Department of Public Safety. In the Senate plan those cuts were smaller than the 5 percent across-the-board cuts the rest of state government is set to be hit with.
To make up the gap, Gentry says the House GOP intends to increase cuts to higher education administration.
“Some of our executives at UNM are retaining their $350,000 a year salary, fancy dinners are being purchased on the taxpayer’s dime at football games,” Gentry said. “Clearly they have some money to give.”
One part of the Senate plan unlikely to make it through the House at all is a proposed delay of a corporate tax cut set to go into effect.
Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, a key architect of the Senate’s solvency package, says he’s not surprised to hear of planned Republican tweaks, which would require the Senate to come back into session to get those bills to the governor’s desk. He hopes the House moves quickly.
“The most critical thing we had to do was try and fix the state budget because quite frankly we’re getting very close to writing hot checks,” Smith said.
He and other Democrats have accused Republicans of not taking the state’s budget crisis seriously and using a series of crime bills the Governor put on the agenda as a way to win political points with voters.
“The hot air that’s been expelled on the House side the last two days is only overshadowed by the [hot air] balloons in Albuquerque,” Smith said.
“If Republicans want to pursue reinstatement of the death penalty there’ll be 60 days worth of time to consider that in January,” said House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe. “There’s no urgent need to do it right now.”
Republicans have accused Democrats of disrespecting victims and not doing enough to make the state safer.
“They expected us to solve a budget problem but they also expected us to address some of the tragedies that have happened,” said Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington.
Per the New Mexico Constitution, if the House remains in session and does not adjourn, the Senate is required to come back into session later this week.
Each day of the special session costs an estimated $50,000. The House is set to resume Sunday at 9 a.m.