Budget controversy: What if there’s an impasse?

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SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – In the face of a budget shortfall, the governor has rejected the budget lawmakers gave to her and vows to call a special session to fix it.

But as the state inches closer to July 1 when the new fiscal year starts, lawmakers say Gov. Susana Martinez has yet to open the dialogue to a compromise. Still, the Democratic majority stands behind what was presented to the governor back in March.

Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque and majority whip, has a new way to address the governor in the wake of the 60-day legislative session.

Sen. Padilla calls her the “odd person out”  for vetoing what he considers a bipartisan budget plan that included tax increases to plug the state’s $150 million deficit and shore up reserves for better bond ratings, tax reforms and no further cuts to government agencies, particularly education.

But the governor slammed lawmakers for how they spent their time in the session, and wholly rejected the tax increases section of the budget. She’s vowed not to raise taxes during her time in office.

She also line-item vetoed funding for higher education and the legislature’s budget.

KRQE News 13 wanted to know, what if the legislative and executive branch come to an impasse on the budget?

Sen. Padilla says the legislature could call an extraordinary session — not to be confused with a special session — which the governor alone calls with a limited, certain itinerary for lawmakers.

The extraordinary session would be called by legislators themselves, given a three-fifths majority in both chambers.

In an extraordinary session, lawmakers draft a budget and send it to the governor. If she vetoes it, Sen. Padilla says, then legislators would likely successfully override her veto.

“From a state level, I’m going to call that the nuclear option. Because if we decide to go down that road, that is going to create an additional strain to the legislature and the governor,” he said.

Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales and minority leader, isn’t ready to speculate what could happen or the chances of an extraordinary session, though.

Lawmaker since 1985, Sen. Ingle, says he’s been around the block a few times and seen similar situations. He’s confident the governor’s office will soon begin talks with lawmakers on a compromise pre-special session, which the governor has promised to call “in the coming weeks.”

“There’s always a lot of discussion about not moving either way, but at some point that has to stop and we get together…and get something agreed to by both sides of the aisle and the fourth floor,” Sen. Ingle said.

An extraordinary session is rare.

The first and only time it’s happened was in 2002 under Gov. Gary Johnson. The legislature presented Johnson with a budget, he vetoed it, then the legislature overrode the veto.

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