Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

NM governor signs state budget and money for projects into law

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday signed into law bills dealing with the state government’s $9.57 billion budget, and more than $1 billion in public funding for construction and other projects throughout the state that were requested by lawmakers during the 2023 session.

Few changes to capital outlay bill

Lujan Grisham didn’t make many changes to House Bill 505, the Capital Outlay legislation.

She vetoed $260,000 of the total allocated $1.2 billion. That money would’ve set up resources for philanthropic program Assistance League Albuquerque, the Sawmill community land trust and an Albuquerque flamenco studio. 

Lujan Grisham made minor language changes in parts of the bill, including the removal of a maximum amount the Corrections Department can spend on a facilities master plan.

This legislation also includes $10 million for a reproductive health clinic in Doña Ana County, an effort Lujan Grisham promised over half a year ago. Many Republicans voted against the capital outlay bill’s passage in the Roundhouse because of this allocation.

Election dollars

Some of the capital outlay funds will help the N.M. Secretary of State enforce standards in a bill that expands voting rights that Lujan Grisham signed on March 30. That legislation, House Bill 4, requires that every county has at least two ballot drop boxes.

The capital outlay bill provides $300,000 to set up these containers around the state.

There’s also $1.55 million for electronic voting systems in House Bill 505.

Capital Outlay reauthorizations

Senate Bill 309 allows more time for capital outlay projects that were approved in previous legislative sessions to complete their work and spend the money lawmakers gave them.

Most cuts were related to fixing language in the bill. Other cuts related to recurring funds to projects in Bernalillo County, Clovis, Las Cruces and Farmington. 

Money to continue building a Route 66 Visitor’s Center in Albuquerque was also axed from the budget.

Attempted changes to the law in the budget

Lujan Grisham on Friday wrote that she vetoed parts of the state budget “that impermissibly attempt to create substantive law,” which is prohibited by the state constitution.

She vetoed parts of the budget “that attempt to enact general policy by imposing, for example, reporting or other requirements that do not exist in substantive law,” she wrote, pointing to a 1988 state Supreme Court decision saying those policies are “better addressed by general legislation and (are) not suitable for inclusion in” the state budget.

She vetoed language that would have required the Department of Game & Fish to get lawmakers’ approval before buying private land.

Lujan Grisham vetoed language that would have required the Human Services Department to get lawmakers’ permission before expanding Medicaid eligibility, and that would have required the department to share “any” reports with lawmakers, because it “inappropriately adds unrelated substantive law to the appropriation bill.”

Stepping on the executive’s toes

Lujan Grisham also vetoed parts of the budget “that impermissibly intrude into the executive managerial function,” she wrote.

She vetoed language that would have made some money for the benefits programs under the Public School Insurance Authority and the Retiree Health Care Authority  contingent on a review of health insurance claims.

She wrote that they are “an overly burdensome obligation for the agency to complete by July 1 and an unreasonable infringement into the executive managerial function.”

Lujan Grisham vetoed language that would have set spending priorities for the Public Education Department “and unreasonably infringe into the executive managerial function.”

Attaching strings to spending

She objects to parts of the budget “that unduly restrict appropriations to specified types of expenditures,” she wrote.

In numerous instances throughout the budget, Lujan Grisham vetoed the words “an average” before the words “five percent salary increase,” because it would have prevented equal raises for all state workers.

She vetoed language that would have moved up to $150 million out of state agency budgets and into the state’s General Fund because it “contradicts existing state law governing general fund reversions requirements.”

She vetoed a restriction on the use of $160,000 for food program employee benefits to only be spent by the Department of Agriculture because it “would unnecessarily restrict the availability and efficient use of these funds.”

Lujan Grisham vetoed references to manufactured housing in the budget for the Regulation and Licensing Department because they create “uncertainty with respect to separate appropriations.”

She vetoed language that “would have deprived” the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance of $350,000 for auditing insurance companies and $1 million to regulate mental health insurance.

She vetoed language that would have created funding for employees of the State Fair African-American Performing Arts Center without “funding in the appropriate personal services and employee benefits categories.”

Lujan Grisham vetoed language about $8 million set aside for the Early Childhood Education and Care Department’s support and intervention program and $132 million for the prekindergarten program “to provide greater simplicity and clarity.”

She also vetoed language that would have contradicted state law governing the Early Childhood Education Program Fund.

Some of the largest funding cuts came by slicing out nearly $55 million in matching state grants to colleges in the state from the education technology enhancement fund. 

A $20 million appropriation for public education to support Native American students also saw language vetoed that would’ve limited the capacity of the spending toward, “tribal libraries, education departments, local districts or language programs.”

Any unspent funds administered by the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department will go back to the Indian Education Fund.

She vetoed language that would have prevented the Crime Victims Reparation Commission from using money to meet its duties under state law and transfer money between different parts of its budget.

She also vetoed language that would have prevented the opportunity scholarship program from saving money between budget years.

Legislative oversight

She vetoed language that would have required the Higher Education secretary to report to lawmakers every year on schools with declining enrollment because “the Legislature already has several opportunities throughout the year to monitor the progress of executive agencies.”

For the same reason, Lujan Grisham vetoed language that would have required the Higher Education department to produce a report on the opportunity scholarship program by November.

She also vetoed language that would have required the Public Education Department to consult with the Legislative Finance Committee and the Legislative Education Study Committee before setting the state equalization guarantee for funding schools, because lawmakers can already monitor executive agencies.

The governor cut out the Legislative Finance Committee by reducing certain reporting requirements on spending by the state’s education, corrections, human services and department of finance. 

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