Special session aims to solve state’s budget crisis

Stakes are high in state’s special legislative session

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – On the first day of the special legislative session, lawmakers have delivered two important parts of a new budget proposal to the governor.

Two budget bills that passed both chambers are now headed to the governor’s desk. The first is House Bill 1, which restores funding for higher education.

You’ll remember the governor used her line item veto to cut funding for higher education and the legislature. She also vetoed $350 million in tax hikes aimed at plugging  the state’s budget deficit and shoring up reserves.

This time around, Democrats say they’re compromising by pulling from funds typically used for infrastructure projects, and putting it in the general fund.

The two other bills, which include tax increases and tax policy changes, will be heard by opposite chambers Thursday, meaning we could wrap up the special session after two days.

Once a bill gets to the governor’s desk, she has three days to act on it.

The special session began Wednesday morning with Democrats in both the House and Senate attempting to override the governor’s budget vetoes of $350 million in tax increases. That attempt failed in both chambers along party lines.

The governor’s office issued the following statement in response to the failed override attempt:

Any lawmaker who voted for the override just voted to cut $1 million from cancer treatment and research, and $2 million from financial assistance for students. It’s disappointing that the legislative leadership seems more focused on playing politics than working together to develop bipartisan solutions. – Mike Lonergan

Republicans are  happy, they believe the new budget being discussed right now is much better.

“The compromise on our side is to look at revenue enhancements, so you know, like we did with this budget, I’m confident that working together we can get there,” said House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque.

While Republican legislators are willing to give in to some tax increases, they want it to be part of a comprehensive tax code reform — something the governor has said she wants, too.

A 400-page comprehensive tax code reform bill is in the works. However, lawmakers on both sides agree it likely would not pass in this short special session.

Senate Democratic leader Mary Kay Papen says the top priority is funding higher education, which the governor vetoed, and plugging the state’s deficit.

“We need to make sure that we do have a balanced budget and that we can move forward, and that particularly our higher education is taken care of,” said Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces.

The special session costs $50,000 a day.

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