A Look at the Record: Will Supreme Court ruling against Martinez veto increase business costs?

By Matthew Reichbach

The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Gov. Susana Martinez’s line-item veto of a bill to shore up the unemployment fund was illegal. The court ruled that by stripping out a $128 million tax increase but leaving in nearly $80 million in cuts in the state unemployment fund, the part of the law that “was an unworkable piece of legislation,” according to Justice Edward Chavez.

The Supreme Court sided with six Democratic members of the state legislature including Speaker of the House Ben Lujan (D-Nambe) and Rep. Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque) in ordering the law “be reinstated as passed by the Legislature.” Stewart was the sponsor of the bill.

“Because the effect of the partial veto was to exempt most employers from making what would otherwise be mandatory contributions to the unemployment compensation fund for calendar year 2012, we hold that the partial veto was invalid,” Chavez wrote.

The Supreme Court had previously decided not to rule on the legislation and instead said the legislature and governor should work together to find a compromise on the bill. The legislators and Martinez could not come to an agreement and the special session ended without any unemployment bill passing.

Significantly, the court did not agree with one of the two legal arguments made by the plaintiffs, which was that the bill is not an appropriation bill, therefore it is not subject to the governor’s line-item veto power. Chavez wrote that “for the purposes of this Opinion, we assume, without deciding, that House Bill 59 is a bill appropriating funds.”

Rather, Chavez said the court looked to the question of whether or not the veto made the bill unworkable or changed the intent of the bill first. And it was on those grounds that the veto was invalidated.

What it all adds up to is that the bill will go into effect with the language passed by the state legislature.

Dispute over increased business costs

Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell told the Santa Fe New Mexican’s Steve Terrell, “Gov. Martinez used her line-item authority in the same way Governor Richardson did in 2010 and disagrees with the Court’s decision today. Unfortunately, Democrats will get their wish to raise taxes on small businesses to fund unemployment benefits, even though the unemployment rate in New Mexico has fallen from 8.7 percent in January to 6.6 percent today.

However, at the time the bill was on the Governor’s desk awaiting her signature, representatives of both the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Commerce of Industry (ACI) supported the measure and voiced opposition to a threatened veto.

The Albuquerque Journal reported ACI President Beverlee McClure as saying, ““By vetoing this legislation, she (the Governor) in effect forces a … (huge) increase on our employers. ”

The increase about which McClure was concerned is detailed in the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce’s 2011 legislative agenda document, “Priority Issues for Economic Stimulus“:
The Chamber supports these efforts to prevent Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund insolvency because a move to Schedule 6 would put a significant financial burden on business. While an increase to Schedule 2, or 3 in an emergency, is not ideal, it is necessary to prevent a mandatory move to Schedule 6, which would be even more of a burden on business.
The 2010 veto by Richardson to which Darnell referred was never challenged and ruled upon by the Supreme Court.


Rally opposes Martinez, drivers license repeal

By Matthew Reichbach


Rally against repeal of immigrant driver's license law

Nearly 200 enthusiastic opponents of the attempt to take away drivers licenses from undocumented immigrants rallied at the State Capitol today. The supporters waved signs, chanted slogans and were in complete opposition to Governor Susana Martinez on the driver’s license law.

Father Juan Montoya of Alamogordo was perhaps the most critical of Martinez.

Father Juan Montoya

Of the driver’s license repeal, Montoya said, “It’s a disgrace to the name Martinez. Maybe you should change your name.”

After a short pause, he said, “How about Palin?”

Legislators, all Democrats, who oppose Martinez’s hard push to repeal drivers licenses for undocumented workers were also at the rally.

Rep. Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said that there was a reason that Arizona was divided from New Mexico.

“We are not Arizona,” Maestas said, echoing signs held by supporters surrounding the stage.

Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, said that since he has been in office the driver’s license issue hasn’t been a problem. He said that’s “because its a political issue” and not about public safety as Martinez has claimed.

The Catholic Church has also put its considerable weight behind opposing the repeal of the law. Allen Sanchez, Executive Director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops again reiterated the bishops opposition to the bill and urged Martinez to “cross the bridge together to compromise.”

In a rally on the opening day of the session, Sanchez said the Catholic Bishops would support the Senate compromise that passed during the regular session but was flatly rejected by Republican legislatures and Martinez as dead-on-arrival.

Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, mentioned the support of the bishops, saying “We are not only on God’s side thanks to the bishops, we are on the people’s side.”

Ortiz y Pino also said taking drivers licenses away from parents who need to drive to take their kids to school “is an immoral act, no matter what the law says.”

The rally came a day after Martinez first definitively acknowledged that her parents came to the United States illegally. Martinez was speaking to KLUZ-TV, a spanish-speaking station. The governor’s spokesman said that Martinez had no contact with her grandfather, as he left the family when her father was young.

Two Tea Party counter demonstrators at today's rally


Martinez loses another Supreme Court case

By Matthew Reichbach
On Wednesday, Governor Susana Martinez lost another case before the New Mexico Supreme Court. This one involved the state’s high court telling the Governor that vetoing a single digit from an appropriation, in this case slashing a $150,000 to $50,000, overstepped her authority as laid forth by the state Constitution.

The illegal veto would have slashed money appropriated to the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority. Two state Senators and two members of the state House of Representatives filed suit to invalidate the veto.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for our constitution and the people of New Mexico,” Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Silver City, said in a joint statement following the Supreme Court’s decision. “The principle of separation of powers is the cornerstone of our government. 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.”

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Martinez’s veto.

Reps. Luciano “Lucky” Varela of Santa Fe and Henry “Kiki” Saavdera of Albuquerque were also party to the lawsuit and the four legislators split the cost of bringing the lawsuit.

“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,” Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said according to Reuters. “The governor is hopeful that the Legislature will work with her to prevent such vetoes from becoming necessary in the future.”

This isn’t the first setback in the Supreme Court by the Republican governor.

Martinez has not had much luck with the state’s high court, losing three rulings including one on slashing regulations and another on her decisions involving the state labor board. The state ruled unanimously that Martinez exceeded her authority in removing two members of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

Martinez defended her vetoes by noting that governors had previously used similar line-item vetoes. These were 70 years ago and were not challenged at the time.

The Supreme Court did not make a decision on another lawsuit that Martinez is facing over one of her vetoes. The lawsuit contends that Martinez’s line-item veto of the portions of an unemployment insurance bill that raise revenue is illegal. The six lawmakers filing suit against Martinez argue that the bill does not appropriate money and therefore cannot be line-item vetoed.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Commerce and Industry both backed the bill that would stave off insolvency in the state’s unemployment fund. Already most states in the country have seen their unemployment funds go broke.

It’s Official: Gov. Martinez Wants Full Repeal of Federal Health Care Reform

By Charlotte Chinana

“The first step for a successful Medicaid transformation is the full repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

– An excerpt from a letter signed by 29 Republican Governors – including New Mexico’s
Susana Martinez – outlining seven principles for Medicaid Reform.

A day before the Health and Human Services Interim Committee met and heard from the NM’s Human Services Department (HSD), about their plans to redesign the state’s Medicaid program, Gov. Martinez joined several of her colleagues in signing on to a letter calling for the “full repeal” of the Federal Health Reform Act (otherwise known as the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” – or PPACA).

The repeal-support letter, written as a response to a report released in March, by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), reiterates the claims made regarding costs that the states would assume, by expanding Medicaid under PPACA.

According to the Hatch-Upton report, it “conservatively estimates” that the PPACA Medicaid expansion would “cost state taxpayers at least $118.04 billion through 2023” – and provided state-by-state projections.

The report and its findings, however, were subsequently challenged by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, on the grounds that the report is “wholly unsound”:

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Martinez to fund food stamp extension with stimulus funds

Gov. Susana Martinez announced Monday that she was reversing a plan that would have slashed a food stamp extension that aids low income, elderly and disabled residents. The cuts were not in the budget that the Legislature passed and Martinez signed.

Martinez announced that the extension would be funded by the use of discretionary stimulus funds from the federal government. The funds will extend the program through September.

Martinez blamed the state legislature for the funds not being extended.

“Not only did our executive budget recommend an additional $10 million in Medicaid funding, but we aimed to fully fund the supplemental food stamp program for the next fiscal year as well,” Martinez said in a statement. “Though the Legislature chose to advance different priorities, I’m glad that we will be able to extend the food stamp program through September and discuss ways for it to be funded in the future.”

The money from the federal government must be spent by September or the money is taken away. Martinez previously eliminated $2.6 million in federal funding that she did not believe would be spent in time. That was money allocated by former Gov. Bill Richardson and will go towards, along with the food stamp extension, gas for state police.

The extension will continue the program where the minimum amount of food stamp benefits for elderly and disabled residents is $25 per month. The federal minimum is $16 per month, so the state covers the $9 extra per month in New Mexico.

Martinez also said that her line-item vetoes of the budget have cleared enough money to fund the program with state funds going forward. However, some of her line item vetoes are the subject of a lawsuit that seems destined for a date with the state Supreme Court. In one case, Martinez line item vetoed a single digit, turning a $150,000 appropriation to the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority into a $50,000 appropriation. Lawmakers contend this oversteps her constitutional authority as governor.

Martinez has not had much luck with the state’s high court, losing three rulings including one on slashing regulations and another on her decisions involving the state labor board. The state ruled unanimously that Martinez exceeded her authority in removing two members of the Public Employee Labor Relations Board.

Public employee unions have been the target of Republican governors throughout the nation, most notably in Wisconsin and Ohio.

Martinez hinted that the issue of funding this program could come during the special session for redistricting that will be held in the fall. Martinez has already said that the controversial issue of letting those in the country illegal get drivers licenses will be on the call for the special session.

Assume a Rat: When Individualism Smells like Corporate Welfare

This is a great chart. Important too. Why?

There’s an increasingly persistent meme being used to justify another round of massive tax cuts for the super-rich — like those contained in the Ryan Budget plan recently passed by the House.  The meme is this:  The wealthy are the true “producers.” They’re “job creators” who will take any additional tax windfall and, presto… new manufacturing plants will spring up over night.

There’s also a “moral” component embedded in this meme. The reframe goes like this. For us to expect billionaires and large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes is really about “unjustly punishing” them for their “success.” It’s tantamount to theft.

What we have here is a perfect reflection of the moral universe conceived by Ayn Rand. And now an attempt is being made to enshrine her philosophy of radical individualism as official policy via the plan of Congressman Paul Ryan — a committed Randian.

This is Calvinism on steroids — but absent God (Rand was a militant atheist). Material success and wealth is a sign that you are one of the Elect, and thus favored by God Ayn. The poor, the weak, the sick? God Life is punishing them for their moral defects.

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Being Rich and Paying Less

There are a couple of telling charts we’d like to share with you today.  First, check out this one from a Derek Thompson piece in the Atlantic (1/11/11) on the history of U.S. tax rates. We could write several paragraphs talking you through the flattening of the federal income tax rate over the past thirty years.  That would likely lead to one of two outcomes.  You’d leave this site, or you’d fall asleep.



Instead, just let Thompson’s simple visual tell the story and then draw your own conclusions.  The conclusion we drew is the same one that 72% of those polled by the Washington Post and ABC news last week.  Namely, the rich in America need to start paying their fair share.

Asking the rich to pay their fair share is a necessary part of what should be a balanced approach to our budgetary woes in Washington, D.C., and here in our home state of New Mexico.

Given her fondness for reciting poll numbers to the press, we wonder if Governor Martinez will pay attention to the results of this poll.

We’re not holding our collective breath.

That Was the Week That Was: NM Leg Wk#3

The editor apologizes to Claus and our readers for posting this a day late.  Nonetheless, in the interests of preserving the historical record of this riveting legislative session, here it is.

by Claus Whiteacre

In week three of the New Mexico Legislature, legislative committees got very busy and Gov. Susana Martinez issued another yet another executive order right in tune with the themes from her election campaign.

In the wake of the Super Bowl, a football analogy seems appropriate. By repeatedly running the executive order route, the Governor appears to be attempting end runs around the legislative branch of government – as well as the law. And on three of these plays, she has run afoul of those black-robed refs in the third branch of government — the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The Walkout

On Monday before either chamber had convened, the Republican members of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee walked out in the middle of a meeting. The revolt was led by Rep. Don Bratton (R-Hobbs).

While it is common for individual members of committees to talk to the press after a hearing, the fact that all of Republican committee members joined together after the walkout to craft a collective statement to the press brings up some questions.

The united statement spun the walkout as being unplanned and said the Republicans were just trying to represent the “people” in what they considered an unfair hearing.  However, it is worth noting that joining the walkout were a significant number of industry lobbyists. Presumably, this was done to remind us all that corporations are people too — albeit artificial ones.

It remains to be seen whether we will see more “unplanned” walkouts in the days ahead.

The Executive Order on Immigration

Later in the week, Gov. Martinez issued an executive order mandating that state police officers question criminal suspects about their immigration status. The executive order revoked a policy put in place by former Gov. Bill Richardson in 2005.

On Thursday morning, more than a dozen Democratic senators and representatives called a noon press conference in the Rotunda to denounce Gov. Martinez’s executive order.

“There are two things to take away from this: We are not Arizona and it is important that no one in this state will fear approaching a police officer,” said Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque).

In what turned into a duel of competing press conferences, Martinez scheduled one of her own at 12:30 PM to talk about the gas outages throughout the state.

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New Mexico Supreme Court: Governor Cannot Trump Law

Governor Susana Martinez’s attempt to do an end run around the New Mexico State Constitution was blocked by the Supreme Court today.

Here’s the press release from New Energy Economy (NEE), the organization that filed the lawsuit against the Governor:

New Mexico Supreme Court: Governor Cannot Trump Law

Decision Favors Pollution Reduction Policy to Strengthen Economy

Santa Fe – In a stunning blow to the inexperienced administration of GOP Governor Susana Martinez, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Governor Martinez violated the state Constitution when she prevented a rule reducing carbon pollution from being published as codified state law. The lawsuit was filed by nonprofit New Energy Economy and reflects growing claims that Governor Martinez arbitrarily and illegally sought to suppress the rule in an attempt to appease major carbon polluters who contributed heavily to her gubernatorial campaign.

‘We are prepared to continue fighting, and winning, against all challenges to New Mexico’s carbon pollution reduction rule. The scientific and economic facts are clearly on our side,’ stated a triumphant Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director of New Energy Economy. ‘We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling today and will redouble our efforts to transform this culture of litigation into a culture of investment in creating family-supporting jobs for New Mexicans and an enduring legacy for future generations.’

New Energy Economy led a two-year public deliberation process that resulted in the carbon pollution reduction rule being adopted as official state law by the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board. The rule requires facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon pollution per year to reduce these emissions by 3 percent per year from 2010 levels starting in 2013. The rule enables effective and economically efficient carbon pollution reduction that will spur job creation, investment and innovation across New Mexico’s economy, particularly the energy sector. The rule will increase jobs and revenue among oil and gas producers as well as boost momentum in the state’s emerging energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

‘Governor Martinez attempted an end run around the Constitution at the request of major polluters,’ stated Bruce Frederick, staff attorney from the New Mexico Environmental Law Center who filed the lawsuit on behalf of New Energy Economy. ‘Her attempt to prevent the carbon pollution rule from becoming a valid state law is highly illegal and cannot be tolerated in a democratic society.’

New Mexico’s carbon pollution reduction rule and related documents available at: www.newenergyeconomy.org