New Mexico High Court Refuses to Rule on Governor’s Higher Education Vetoes

SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) – New Mexico’s Supreme Court refused to rule on a lawsuit filed by the state Legislature against Gov. Susana Martinez’s line-item vetoes in its budget, saying that the dispute is not yet “ripe for review.”

The New Mexico Legislative Council filed its petition against Martinez in late April, claiming that her veto of all financing for higher education in the state was unconstitutional. But on Thursday, Chief Justice Charles W. Daniels issued a unanimous ruling stating that it’s too early for a judicial decision, especially since the Legislature has already scheduled a special session to begin on May 24.

Gov. Martinez has been open about her intention to address the budget for higher education during a special session, though the bipartisan group that brought the lawsuit to the state’s Supreme Court claims that her elimination of all monies for universities in the state was in retaliation for the Legislature failing to confirm Martinez’s choices for University of New Mexico regents.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, issued a joint statement that they “respectfully disagree” with the Supreme Court’s order. “Despite the lack of a court decision, the fact remains that the governor’s vetoes were irresponsible and have created unprecedented instability in our economy and in our households,” the statement says.

Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan issued his own statement, criticizing the suit itself while remaining optimistic that the ruling paves the way for budget compromise. “This comes down to out-of-touch Santa Fe trial lawyers in legislative leadership who are suing the governor because they want to raise gas taxes, and she is the only one standing in their way,” Lonergan said.

But with the state already in a financial crunch and legislative special sessions in the state costing up to $50,000 a day, there’s hope that the budget dispute can be resolved before the special session begins.

“If we don’t get together, I think it could be an awful waste of money for the taxpayers,” Rep. Patricia Lundstrom,  D-Gallup, told the Albuquerque Journal.

Lundstrom is the chairwoman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.


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