Santa Fe, NM — Governor Martinez’s attempt to withhold capital outlay appropriations approved by the Legislature is unconstitutional, according to an Attorney General (AG) opinion issued late Friday. Earlier this summer, 12 Senate Democrats requested an opinion from the AG questioning the constitutionality of an Executive Order issued by Governor Martinez.
During the 2013 legislative session, the legislature passed a capital outlay bill that approved funding for construction projects around the state that was signed by the Governor. But more than a month after the completion of the session, the same legislators, cities, counties and other local governments in New Mexico were informed by an Executive Order that several projects would not be funded or approved despite being made law.
The Executive Order would allow the funding of state projects to be decided by various state agencies and the Governor’s office. “The Governor’s Executive Order in May would unconstitutionally supersede the lawmaking process for the appropriation of state funds, and would replace the democratic process. Our state constitution assures that the appropriation of state money must go through the legislative process, and that co-equal branches of government share the responsibilities of governing,” said Senator Joseph Cervantes (D-31-Dona Ana), who coordinated the Senators’ request for the AG’s opinion.
Following the Executive Order, 122 projects totaling more than $13 million have not been allowed to proceed. “Real reform in our capital outlay process is long overdue, but genuine reforms must be done in collaboration with legislators, and not through a plainly unconstitutional shortcut to governing,” added Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-26-Bernalillo).
The group of Senators that requested the AG opinion has not yet determined its next steps in moving the capital outlay projects forward. “The timing of this issue remains critical based on proposed bonds to be sold in December. It is my hope that the opinion will encourage the Governor to authorize the Board of Finance to include the projects in its next bond sale,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen (D-38-Dona Ana).