COMMENTARY: There will be a special session of the N.M. Legislature after all and it will be Friday.
By far the most pressing issue is how to address the state’s serious budget challenges. The only plan with any substance has been put forth by the Rio Grande Foundation. You can find it here and here.
There are zero tax increases, but we do include some new revenue from taxing and regulating cannabis. There is some low-hanging fruit like cutting higher education, reforming long-term-care insurance under Medicaid, and eliminating film subsidies and there are more challenging cuts.
The fact is that by almost any measure, New Mexico government is too big and spends too much money. It is time to cut back.
So what will happen during this one-day special session? Possibly legislators will come to some agreement on dealing with the FY 2016 shortfall (FY 2016 ended on June 30 of 2016). This would just involve shifting some existing funds around (like tobacco settlement dollars) and closing out the books. You can’t raise taxes retroactively.
It seems highly unlikely that Gov. Susana Martinez will get any of her crime legislation (like reinstating the death penalty). Even if Democrats supported most of these “get tough” policies, which I don’t believe they do, they are in no mood to give Martinez any big victories a month before an election.
It is also hard to believe that we’ll see any agreement on FY 2017’s more substantial deficits, which are in the $450-$550 million range, for the simple fact that Democrats want to raise taxes and Gov. Martinez doesn’t.
What does this all mean for the future? Will this special session last just one day? I believe so. There isn’t much agreement. There is no reason to keep people in Santa Fe so close to an election.
Will there be another special session after the election? Possibly. Will there ever be an agreement on New Mexico’s budget? That may depend on the outcome this November.
If the Democrats win back the House, their demands for higher taxes will likely be strengthened (but Martinez still holds a lot of cards). If the GOP retains the House and makes inroads in the Senate (like defeating Majority Leader Michael Sanchez or another incumbent or two), the governor’s “no tax hikes” position will be strengthened.
A murky result and, well, the situation will remain murky. Only time (and November’s election) will tell.
Paul Gessing is the president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.