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New Mexico Legislature sues governor in escalating conflict

Kai Porter
April 22, 2017 12:12 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The battle lines are drawn in the budget battle between the New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez.

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Lawmakers have filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court to block the governor's line-item vetoes of their proposed budget. They say the governor overstepped her constitutional authority when she defunded the legislative branch and higher education.

Friday's bold move by the Legislature was weeks in the making. Legislative leaders agreed to sue after Martinez used her line-item veto power on critical parts of the budget. In the lawsuit, lawmakers claim the governor violated the state's constitution.

In the 28 page lawsuit, attorneys for the legislature write, the governor is trying to "effectively abolish the legislative branch of government."  The lawsuit adds that if the governor doesn't fund higher education, it would lead to "dire social and economic consequences." 

"The stroke of a governor’s pen must never undermine the constitution that creates the system of government which serves New Mexico families," Senate President Pro-Tempore and Co-Chair of the Legislative Council Mary Kay Papen said in a statement after the filing. "Today’s action is important to check the power of the executive and protect against any overreach on behalf of those we represent. The Governor’s political ideology is not above the law."

Click here to read the full petition. To read the New Mexico Constitution, click here.

Last Friday, Martinez told KOB's Danielle Todesco the funding will return and that it came down to $350 million in proposed tax hikes.

"I've told them from the very beginning I'm not going to balance a budget when state government is bloated, and then make sure that the public, our hardworking families are paying for that or students are having to pay just for us to maintain a bloated state government," Martinez said April 14. "I'm not going to do it, and so I had to be able to make sure that we could set that aside knowing that we could have a special session when we could put that back in."

Martinez has not set a date for a special session and state lawmakers could possibly call for their own extraordinary session.

The governor also held an event in Farmington to discuss her decision her vetoes. She praised two state representatives for their work in the special session by not supporting tax increases, and she reiterated some of her previous talking points about opposing taxes and why she vetoed.

"They have an attitude of my way or the highway, so they filed a lawsuit so that the tax increases can be imposed on New Mexico families," she said. I really think the majority just needs to come to the table. They just need to come to the table come up with a solution that does not include those tax increases. And yes it takes a little bit of work, but it is a solution for the people we represent."

Martinez said she vetoed funding for higher education knowing it would be put back in during a special session. She wants lawmakers to come to the table and reach a solution before calling a special session to avoid spending $50,000 a day on the session.

The governor also responded to the Legislature's lawsuit.

“We certainly hope they’re not spending more taxpayer dollars in order to file this lawsuit because again, lawsuits are expensive and I believe that’s where the money is coming from is the taxpayers," she said.

KOB-TV and KOB.com will have the latest information on this battle when developments happen.

Credits

Kai Porter

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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