New Mexico lawmakers prepare for 2017 legislative session

new-mexico-legislative-session-roundhouse

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Lawmakers head to the Roundhouse Tuesday for the start of the legislative session.

Their jobs aren’t going to be easy as they try to figure out how to fix the state’s massive money problems.

This will be Gov. Martinez’s last 60-day legislative session.

Of course, the big issue is the state’s $69 million budget shortfall and whether these two parties can work out a solution.

“The first thing that we need to do is have state government tighten its belt,” Martinez said.

The session starts Tuesday with the governor’s State of the State Address at noon.

Already, a myriad of bills has been pre-filed. Some are quite controversial, but many seek to mend New Mexico’s economy.

There are bills to raise the minimum wage, while others focus on criminal issues, like enacting a three strikes law and bringing back the death penalty.

The governor wants stiffer DWI penalties, but she says priority number one is getting out of the budget crisis, and doing it without raising taxes. The shortfall is blamed on the state’s loss in tax revenue from the oil and gas industry.

“I mean it’s just not fair to them, to say you pay more in gas, you pay more in groceries, you pay more at the pharmacy. Those are the proposals from the other side. We’re proposing a way to balance this budget, FY17 – FY18 without raising taxes one cent,” said Gov. Martinez.

Reacting to that comment, State Sen. Jacob Candelaria said, “It’s not fair that we, as a state, for the last six years have been cutting taxes for out-of-state corporations and for the wealthiest among us while cutting services to those who need it most.”

Democrats have regained control of both the House and Senate. Top-ranking Democrats aren’t fans of the governor’s proposed budget, which includes cutting take-home pay for state workers and teachers.

“No one likes the idea of raising taxes, but at a time like this when there is such dire need and the state’s budget is in such crisis, we need to have a real conversation as adults about what kind of revenue proposals are reasonable and won’t hurt our economy,” said Sen. Candelaria.

During the last 60-day legislative session, nearly 700 bills were introduced. The governor signed 158 of them.

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