Richard E. May, state secretary of finance and administration, says Gov. Susana Martinez’s line-item vetoes were not only consistent with previous administrations but fiscally responsible.
There has been considerable interest from a few Democratic legislators regarding “line-item” or partial vetoes by Martinez to bills appropriating money during the last legislative session. In one case, the governor vetoed a $128 million tax increase on New Mexico businesses. In the other, she trimmed $100,000 in excessive spending from a housing oversight program. These Democratic legislators have filed lawsuits to restore the excessive spending and enact higher taxes they approved. Their claim is flatly false that the vetoes are unconstitutional and unprecedented, and their trip to the Supreme Court could make it more expensive to hire workers in New Mexico.
Martinez’s most noteworthy line-item veto was her decision to strike a $128 million unemployment compensation tax hike. The additional taxes were included in a bill that appropriates money from the unemployment compensation fund for benefit payments. As with any appropriations bill, the governor holds constitutional authority to disapprove any provision she finds is not in New Mexico’s best interest.
Equally important, Martinez’s unemployment compensation tax veto closely resembles a 2010 veto by Gov. Bill Richardson of the so-called “tortilla tax.” In each case, the state’s chief executive rejected a tax that was deemed unnecessary and burdensome in bills that appropriated money for particular purposes.
Democratic legislators who are now suing to raise taxes on businesses after Martinez’s veto were quiet as mice when Richardson vetoed a similar tax increase. A political double-standard? You be the judge.
The other partial veto making news is Martinez’s decision to strike part of a $150,000 appropriation for regional housing authority oversight. The governor cut it to $50,000 and saved taxpayers twice that amount.
This veto was consistent with recognized purposes of the partial veto authority, including prevention of hasty and ill-conceived legislation. The Legislature tried to boost funding for regional housing oversight by 420 percent for the next fiscal year. With state agencies, state employees and taxpayers asked to “do more with less,” no aspect of the state budget deserves a 420 percent increase. The governor’s partial veto eliminated the excessive, ill-conceived part of the appropriation.