The Latest: New Mexico Senate says some vetoes don't count
Posted March 17
SANTA FE, N.M. — The Latest on efforts to resolve a New Mexico state budget crisis (all times local):
The Democratic majority leader of the New Mexico Senate says three recent vetoes by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez will not county because of a missed deadline.
Sen. Peter Wirth of Santa Fe announced Thursday that a veto message from the governor was received after the expiration of a three-day veto period.
Bills approved by the Legislature before the final days of the session become law automatically if the governor does not veto them within three days of receipt.
A spokesman for the governor says the vetoes in question already were read into the record on the Senate floor without objection.
Tensions are rising between the Democrat-led Senate and governor amid disputes over a budget shortfall, teacher evaluations and confirmation hearings for political appointees.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has broken her silence on a string of Senate bills vetoes that came with no explanation.
In a written message to the Senate, Martinez on Thursday blasted Democrats in the Legislature for failing to negotiate a balanced budget and said she vetoed eight Senate bills because they are not necessary for the public's health, safety and welfare.
Martinez also says the Democrat-led Senate refuses to fulfill its constitutional obligation to confirm university regent nominees.
The message is a new sign of escalating tensions between second-term governor and the Senate. The Senate has voted to override a veto by Martinez of a bill to increase the number of sick-leave days teachers can use without it hurting their performance evaluations.
A rally in support of greater state funding for public education in New Mexico has drawn hundreds of teachers, parents and students to the state Capitol.
Sign-waving protesters paced around the circular state Capitol building on Thursday to chants of "no more cuts" and "save our schools."
Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent and former state education secretary Veronica Garcia canceled classes at mid-day so that staff and students could attend the rally and urge lawmakers and the governor to bolster spending on K-12 schools for the coming school year.
Garcia is urging Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to reconsider a pledge not to raise taxes. Lawmakers have until Saturday at noon to approve a budget.
The state cut public education funding in October and this year swept funding from school district reserves to plug a current-year deficit.
A proposal to increase New Mexico's tax on cigarettes to $3.16 a pack to boost funding for public schools has voted down by a panel of lawmakers.
The House Taxation and Revenue Committee on Thursday voted 9-5 against the Senate-approved tax increase on a variety of tobacco products including electronic cigarettes.
The tobacco tax was not part of a broader Senate-approved budget plan that slightly increases education funding.
Democratic Sen. and bill sponsor Howie Morales of Silver City says that sidelining the tobacco tax makes cuts to education more likely as the state grapples with slumping tax revenues from current sources. His proposal would have raised $89 million next year.
Lawmakers on the taxation committee expressed concern that raising tobacco prices would foster black-market sales. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has vowed to veto any outright tax increases.
One of New Mexico's largest school districts is dismissing students and teachers early so they can urge state lawmakers and the governor to reach a budget compromise on educational funding.
Parents prepared to pick up Santa Fe Public School district students at midday on Thursday after Superintendent Veronica Garcia ordered the schedule change.
Garica is urging parents to join a rally at the state Capitol building and says further state spending cuts to education would shorten the school year and reduce staff.
The office of Gov. Susana Martinez has criticized those plans and says they won't influence the governor's opposition to tax increases. About 44 percent of the state's general fund budget pays for K-12 public schools.
Lawmakers have until Saturday at noon to approve a budget.