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Governor’s vetoes hurt tribes, lawmakers say

SANTA FE – Native American lawmakers have taken exception to several of Gov. Susana Martinez’s vetoes on a $6.3 billion budget bill, saying she struck down vital projects for tribes that have long struggled with infrastructure and poverty issues.

However, top Martinez administration budget officials have said many of the vetoed projects were not properly vetted and should not have been included in the spending bill approved by lawmakers during this year’s 30-day legislative session.

In addition, the two-term Republican governor did sign off on dozens of tribal infrastructure projects in two different public works bills, including $15.6 million for Native American senior centers and tribal schools.

She vetoed funding for water projects, broadband and more that was tucked into the state’s annual spending bill for the fiscal year starting in July.

“It is reckless and irresponsible that Gov. Martinez would single out these critical investments in our Native communities that are in serious need,” said Rep. Wonda Johnson, D-Church Rock.

Specifically, Martinez used her line-item veto authority to ax a total of $800,000 in state matching dollars for a broadband project involving several northern New Mexico tribes, and for a separate broadband project for tribal land located along U.S. 550, including Jemez Pueblo.

Rep. Wonda Johnson, D-Church Rock

The governor also vetoed a $200,000 expenditure to build an communications tower on the Jicarilla Apache nation aimed at improving emergency management connectivity in a rural part of northwest New Mexico.

In her executive message to lawmakers earlier this week, Martinez said the appropriations were not requested by the agency that administers the funding.

A total of $10 million for broadband projects statewide was included by lawmakers – and signed into law by the governor – in a separate bill passed during the session that ended Feb.15.

Meanwhile, the governor left intact a $949,500 appropriation for minority students at the University of New Mexico, but vetoed language earmarking $20,000 of that amount for Native American student services. She also vetoed similar earmarks for African-American and Latino student groups.

Martinez said the money for student services represented an “inappropriate earmark” within the budget bill.

But some lawmakers suggested her actions showed a lack of compassion.

“These communities, including my own, have historically been underserved, and Gov. Martinez doesn’t understand that when Native communities thrive, their local communities and our entire state will succeed,” said Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, a member of the Acoma Pueblo.