Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NM senators expressing frustration in Santa Fe

Four Democrat senators, in Santa Fe on Tuesday, expressed frustration over the limitations imposed on their deliberations by the Governor Bill Richardson's proclamation convening the special session.

It spells out the matters the legislature can consider during a special session to fix the state budget deficit, reads very narrowly.

It specifically stated that the matters to be considered “shall not include measures reducing salaries or raising tax rates, reducing or eliminating tax credits, rebates, exemptions or deductions, or imposing new taxes.”

Political analyst, blogger and Albuquerque photographer Mark Bralley said lawmakers should have adjourned immediately after reading the governor's proclamation on Saturday.

"They should have returned the proclamation back to the governor and waited until he sent them a document that didn't strip them of their constitutional prerogatives," Bralley said.

“We were not given the opportunity to vote on important options for balancing the budget. While I would not personally support some of the tax options that were introduced and found not germane under the Proclamation, we should at least have had the opportunity to debate those measures and vote on them,” said Senator Carlos R. Cisneros (D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos), Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

Republicans came up with a list of 48 actions they believe Richardson should have taken before calling them back to Santa Fe. Surprisingly, the list included releasing non-violent offenders from corrections three months early. Not as surprising, they also said the governor should have sold the plane. They also want the state tourism department to cancel its contract to participate with a float in the 2010 Rose Bowl Parade.

Echoing the sentiments of Cisceros, Senator Richard C. Martinez (D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba & Santa Fe), Vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee said, “regardless of the merits of the individual revenue measures that were not found germane, we never had an opportunity to weigh their merits or the merits of any other options.”

“We needed to have both expenditures and revenues on the table to find a combination would get us to a balanced budget as required by the Constitution,” said Senator Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe-25), Vice-Chair of the Senate Rules Committee.

Several other senators echoed Wirth's remarks. They noted that because of the proclamation, they were compelled to vote “no” to considering the taxation measures when the Committees’ Committee reported they were not germane because of the language in the Proclamation.

“As legislators, our responsibility is to craft a balanced budget. To do that we need to consider all options; we cannot balance the Fiscal Year 2010 budget without somehow generating revenues. That’s why I voted for finding some of the tax measures germane in spite of the Proclamation’s language – something I see as restricting our constitutional duties,” said Senator Bernadette Sanchez (D-Bernalillo-26), Chair of the Senate Conservation Committee.

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