Strongly Bipartisan Senate Fixes Budget Crisis For Now – Gov. Martinez Never Offered a Plan to Address $600 Million Shortfall

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Strongly Bipartisan Senate Fixes Budget Crisis For Now –
Gov. Martinez Never Offered a Plan to Address $600 Million Shortfall

(Santa Fe, NM) – New Mexico Senate Democrats today retuned to Santa Fe and swiftly passed a package of bipartisan legislative measures that balance the state’s budget, and created a small contingency reserve of funds.  The Senate’s blueprint, passed at the end of a seven-day special legislative session in the House, eliminates an estimated $600 million deficit.  It uses cuts to state agencies, unspent balance sweeps, and re-purposing of idle infrastructure project funds.  Some revenue adjustments, which were passed in the Senate, were rejected by the House Republican majority and Governor Susana Martinez, so they died.

“Thanks to the Senate’s strong bipartisan cooperation, we have ensured that revenues will match expenditures for the first time in nearly two years.  The people of New Mexico can now be confident that we will avoid a financial and a constitutional crisis that loomed only a short time ago.  I am very proud of both my Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Senate who came together in a spirit of cooperation to put our state above partisanship.  The Senate passed a responsible and effective package to address New Mexico’s serious $600 budget crisis,” said Senator John Arthur Smith of Deming, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

It took the House seven days to complete its final budget bill to fix the budget crisis; it took the bipartisan Senate just one day.  Senate Bill 9, which made difficult cuts to state agencies, for example, was passed by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate by a vote of 42 to 0.

On the important issue of higher education funding, the House Republican majority took action that guarantees tuition increases at our state universities. Senate Democrats tried to head that off.

Democratic Senators expressed strong concerns that the budget bills returned by the House to the Senate today removed important balance from the budget package, imposing only cuts, without any revenue measures passed by the Senate.  The House budget bills contribute no revenues to the overall budget solution, despite recent polls showing the voters overwhelmingly wanted legislators to take an approach balanced with both cuts and revenues.

Several Democratic Senators said after adjournment that they were still waiting to see the Governor’s budget plan.  She never offered one.

The Senate was prudent with taxpayer’s money by passing its package of solutions to the budget shortfall in just one day, and then adjourning.  It came back into session today to accept the House’s version of those budget bills.  The bills the House sent back to the Senate, after four days of fruitless debating and amending, contained relatively minor changes from the Senate-initiated budget-balancing measures.

The cost of the special session was $26,834 for the three days the Senate met.  The cost of the House was $90,000, which met for seven days.  Both costs include only the per diem for legislators and mileage, but no staff costs.

Throughout the special session, the House Republican majority and Gov. Martinez played politics with the budget bills, causing costly and unnecessary delays.

Additionally, for the most part, the legislative work of the Senate was done during hours of the day when the public could observe what was being done.  The House Republican majority, in contrast, did much of its work literally in the middle of the night, making it impossible for the public to see.

Senate Democrats vowed that in January during the regular 60-day legislative session, they would hold thorough and transparent discussions of the issues, including the budget.