New Mexico governor seeks economic relief in special session
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday called for a special legislative session the first week of April, saying she wants lawmakers to consider providing economic relief to New Mexicans as inflation persists and gas prices remain high.
The announcement will help to avoid an election year conflict after fellow Democrats denounced her recent veto of a $50 million wish-list from legislators for community projects. The bill contained funding for law enforcement, senior centers, courts and other critical needs.
Democrats and Republicans had threatened to unite and call an extraordinary session to override her veto, but the first-term governor opted to negotiate with Democratic leaders to avoid the rarely used procedural maneuver.
Lujan Grisham’s office said in a news release the governor and legislative leaders agreed to parameters for a new spending bill, “including ensuring that projects are appropriately budgeted as recurring or non-recurring funding.”
“As prices remain high nationwide, it is clear that we must act swiftly to deliver more relief to New Mexicans,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. With high prices forcing families to make difficult choices, she said, “it is our responsibility to do what we can to ease that burden.”
Republicans said Friday they were kept out of the negotiations and were suspicious that the governor’s move was aimed at winning favor as she seeks reelection.
Lujan Grisham earlier this month signed a tax relief package worth $530 million in its first year. It includes $250 rebates.
House Minority Leader Rep. Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, said the rebate amounted to a pittance when considering the significant increase in costs for the average household. He added that rural New Mexico is feeling the pinch even more since residents have to drive farther for groceries and doctor visits.
“We have to be concerned about people’s standard of living,” Townsend said. “Today in New Mexico, about 24% of seniors live in poverty and a little more than a third of those are raising grandchildren because of family issues.”
Making ends meet in New Mexico “is a problem,” he said.
The Legislature in February wrapped up a 30-day session that was meant to focus on fiscal matters. Lawmakers approved a $1 billion annual expansion for state government to shore up spending on public education, health care and infrastructure while boosting salaries for state police, public school educators and other government workers.
Among the tax reforms, the state narrowed its tax on Social Security to high-income retirees while offering a per-child tax credit of up to $175. It also slightly reduced taxes on retail sales and business transactions.
Across the nation, state lawmakers in blue and red states are proposing to cut taxes and fees as budget surpluses swell, though warnings have emerged that U.S. inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will change the outlook for public finances.
New Mexico, the nation’s No. 2 producer of crude oil behind Texas, is experiencing a windfall in state government income tied to oil and natural gas production through a variety of taxes, royalties and lease sales as energy prices surge.