Democratic state lawmakers who had considered calling a special session to override the governor’s veto on a $50 million spending measure say they are now working with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on plans for a session extraordinary to address both the appropriations bill and possible tax relief for new Mexican residents struggling with rising gas prices.
Rather than a priority vote — an idea initially backed by Democrats and Republicans outraged by the veto — the session would likely include consideration of a revised version of Senate Bill 48, also known as “Bill 48.” of Junior Law,” to fund an array of statewide initiatives.
Drafting a governor-backed bill and calling a special session called by Lujan Grisham would avoid a major political dispute between the heavily Democratic legislature and the Democratic governor in an election year.
It’s unclear when the governor might call a special session, but his spokeswoman, Nora Meyers Sackett, said in an email that plans are underway.
“The Governor wants to provide economic relief to New Mexicans in the face of today’s rising prices, which she has clearly communicated – we appreciate that the Legislature also sees the critical importance of easing this burden as well,” said writes Sackett. “We expect to have additional information on such an action very soon.”
Earlier this month, Lujan Grisham signed a bill that is expected to provide around $400 million in recurring tax relief. Some Senate Democrats said the governor floated the idea of a special session to bring more relief.
Consumers have had to deal with a dramatic increase in gasoline prices and grocery bills brought on by a number of factors, including the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine.
While some politicians have called for suspending the state’s gas tax to provide relief to residents, Democratic Sens. Pete Campos of Las Vegas, Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque and others said it could be difficult because the fuel tax could be tied to state and region trunking capabilities. .
Instead, Stewart said, “We’re looking at providing some sort of cost of living and transportation cost reimbursement.”
Campos said one idea is to offer all New Mexico taxpayers a one-time refund of $250.
If that happens, he said, “My opinion is that it should be a check in the mail.”
A bill offering financial assistance to state residents could gain support from Republicans.
Rep. Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, said he has yet to hear about the plan from the governor’s office or Democratic leaders in the House. But he said he was “fundamentally” in favor of a special session to deliver tax relief and resolve issues with the junior bill.
His support would come with one condition: “The junior bill’s targeted impacts do not negatively impact lawmakers on either side of the aisle, their right to appropriate money in their constituencies. .”
Stewart said lawmakers are considering whether they can “fix” SB 48 in a special session. The measure would allocate $50.4 million to hundreds of initiatives selected by lawmakers, from senior center programs to child behavioral health services to increased court staffing.
One of the governor’s concerns when he vetoed the bill was that it included one-time funds for costs that would recur each year.
“She raised issues in the bill, and we’re trying to figure out if we’re okay with those,” Stewart said.
Lawmakers from both major political parties expressed anger last week after the governor vetoed the bill.
Some have called for a special session so they can vote to override the veto. But they failed to reach an agreement on whether to pursue this option. Calling such a session, intended to respond to emergencies, would require the approval of three-fifths of the lawmakers in each of the two houses of the legislature.
Overriding a veto requires affirmative votes of two-thirds of the House and Senate.
Sackett suggested in an email that Lujan Grisham might support a modified version of SB 48. Taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly to benefit New Mexicans,” she wrote.
Brian Sanderoff, political analyst and head of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc, said it “wouldn’t surprise him” if Democratic lawmakers and the governor found a way to avoid a public dispute over SB 48.
“They can find a compromise and everyone saves face,” he said. “So she, the governor, calls the session, which is how these things usually go, and they work out her revision of the bill to satisfy both parties.”
He said he believed such action would happen whether it was an election year or not.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said lawmakers are trying to “find a resolution that minimizes the damage” regarding the junior bill. He thinks it can be accomplished in a special session.
In addition, he said, “There are concerns about the political outlook of [an extraordinary session] in an election year.