Governor Continues Assault on New Mexicans, Accountability, and Transparency
Budget vetoes include more cuts for Native Americans, Education, and Health
SANTA FE – Governor Susana Martinez signed the budget yesterday, but not before exercising line item vetoes that remove accountability and transparency for hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. Many of the budget items that were completely cut hit Native Americans, healthcare professionals, the elderly, and higher education the hardest.
“The vetoes that we saw today on the budget move New Mexico backwards and do nothing to work for a secure economic future for New Mexicans,” said House Democratic Leader Brian Egolf. “The budget passed through both chambers with bipartisan support, and the Governor vetoed everything that provides transparency and accountability to the legislature for how the funds are spent. This type of irresponsible governing opens up pathways for corruption and the abuse of taxpayer dollars,” continued Egolf, noting several instances where language to make sure that money is spent for the intended purpose was struck by Martinez. For example, on page 146, Governor Martinez vetoed language that requires the Higher Education department to submit reports to monitor audits and expenditures for over $22.4 million in funding for the lottery scholarship and student loans. Another example occurs on page 191, where language that requires $13 million dollars to be spent for its lawful purpose is blatantly struck.
Also concerning is the continued assault on Native American communities, higher education, and the elderly. “A few weeks ago we saw New Mexicans lose out on $264 million for capital outlay projects that would have provided jobs all across the state when the Governor slashed funding for the elderly and higher education, ultimately dooming the bill. Today, I’m concerned that we are leaving our elderly and programs like Meals on Wheels at risk. Not only did the Governor veto spending for our most vulnerable population, even removing specific funding for victims of human trafficking, but she also cut funding for our universities and community colleges that provide opportunities to improve our workforce and attract business,” said Las Cruces Representative Doreen Gallegos.
Longtime legislator Lucky Varela, who is an expert on budget matters, was particularly concerned about cuts to healthcare professionals and the judiciary, including a notable $1.3 million cut for public defenders. “I’m disappointed that the Governor vetoed funding for nurses. We are in dire straits when it comes to nurses and medical professionals, and New Mexicans wanted this funding. I’m also disappointed that a personal dislike for the judiciary got in the way of funding our already overburdened courts. Those are the two things that concern me the most. We need to work together to have a serious dialogue about these issues, and this is not how to do it. We’ll keep fighting for a better future for New Mexico, and maybe we’ll have better luck next year.”
“It’s really unfortunate to see politics get in the way of responsible government,” said Representative Patty Lundstrom, whose district seemed to be targeted by many cuts. “McKinley County lost out on millions for much needed behavioral health programs. It’s really unfortunate that many of these vetoes seem to target Native American communities and undo a year of work by legislators to identify critical areas that need funding for things like suicide prevention and addiction programs.”