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.