Saturday, October 17, 2009

Senate leader concerned with session 'limitations'

New Mexico lawmakers caucus, but adjourn after less than two hours of floor debate.

On Saturday, after opening-day discussions on the floor of the New Mexico Senate, Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-Valencia), said he's concerned with 'limitations on legislation' that the Gov. Bill Richardson spelled out in a proclamation convening the special session.

Lawmakers have gathered in Santa Fe and are settling in for a serious debate on how to curb the state's growing budget deficit and fix 2009 revenue shortfalls.

“The drop in expected state revenues has left the legislature with nothing but agonizing choices," Sanchez said. "There is no easy path to a sound budget if we are going to address the approximately $660 million needed for 2010 Fiscal Year and not cause even greater problems for the 2011 Fiscal Year.”

“The limitations on legislation ... have raised some serious concerns in the Senate about those limitations. We are reviewing those limitations to determine whether there they are so restrictive that the legislature will be able to adequately explore available options and fully carry out its constitutional duty to address the state’s budget issues. We are hoping that we can work with the Governor to find reasonable solutions for these serious fiscal issues.”

Trip Jennings at the New Mexico Independent covered the floor debate and wrote about it in his Saturday post:

Given the governor’s opposition to tax increases, why would the Committee on Committees even consider the tax bills, asked Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis.

In other words: “Can the committee of committees overrule the proclamation?” Harden asked Sen. Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen.

“My understanding is that we are bound by the constitution,” Sanchez answered, but, he added, “We can make a political decision if that is what we want to do,” instead of following the constitution.

Several lawmakers filed bills that would raise taxes or change the tax code minutes after Richardson’s proclamation was read out loud in the Senate. One would change how the state would collect the corporate income tax. Another would require the state to create a tax expenditure report.

Sanchez, who is an attorney, added that he understood that if the Legislature passed a law that wasn’t on the governor’s proclamation, “it would become subject to a lawsuit.”

Every member of the Senate has the right to file legislation and out of respect they deserve to go before the Committee on Committees, Sanchez said.

Senators plan to reconvene after 1pm on Sunday.

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