The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled last week that Gov. Susana Martinez went beyond her constitutional powers by using her line-item veto authority to reduce appropriations for a housing program to $50,000 from the legislatively approved $150,000.
The court did not provide a written opinion for its ruling, though one is expected this week.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, and Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said the ruling was correct.
“The balance of power is equally divided among the three branches of government and the court’s decision reaffirmed this by preserving the Legislature’s exclusive appropriating authority,” Sanchez and Smith said in a joint statement.
The full $150,000 allocation will now go into effect.
During oral arguments, the attorney for the legislators contended that the governor can accept all of an appropriation or can veto the entire amount, but cannot amend it by changing the amount approved by the Legislature.
Martinez’s attorney argued the governor is granted broad powers by the state constitution, including the authority to veto parts of appropriations.
“A part is a portion of a whole, and that is what she vetoed,” attorney Jessica Hernandez told the court.
Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said the governor used the partial line-item veto to protect citizens from high taxes and excessive spending.
“The court has now given guidance that the only way for the governor to prevent these types of excessive spending measures is to veto the entire amount,” Darnell said. “The governor is hopeful that the Legislature will work with her to prevent such vetoes from becoming necessary in the future.”
The court said it would rule later on a second lawsuit by lawmakers over Martinez’s veto of a measure that raised business taxes by $128 million a year to replenish the state’s unemployment insurance fund.