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Catholic Leaders, Gov. Still At Odds

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday she still disagrees with New Mexico’s Roman Catholic leaders on several hot-button issues, but plans to keep the communication lines open with one of the most powerful institutions in the state.

“We have to continue to see where we can agree,” Martinez told reporters after a Catholic prayer breakfast.

During the breakfast, which was attended by roughly 40 legislators, Archbishop Michael Sheehan applauded Martinez for her recent decision to expand the state’s Medicaid rolls by an additional 170,000 people.

However, Sheehan and other Catholic bishops urged the Republican governor to seek middle ground on her push to repeal the 2003 law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain New Mexico driver’s licenses.

The bishops also reiterated their support for a proposed constitutional amendment, opposed by Martinez, that would divert more money from the state’s largest permanent fund to expand early childhood education programs.

The governor wants to spend an additional $13.5 million in the coming year on new reading coaches and other intervention measures, but said her thinking has not changed on the proposed amendment.

“I don’t agree with raiding the permanent fund,” said Martinez, who would not have to sign off on the amendment for it to go before voters statewide. “I agree with doing things that measure progress.”

Martinez, who grew up attending Catholic school in El Paso, said she has a “very good” relationship with the state’s Catholic bishops.

She said her ongoing policy disagreements with the church would not sour that relationship, saying, “I’m used to having two sides of an issue.”

In addition to the annual prayer breakfast, the Catholic bishops also took part in an anti-abortion march and rally outside the Roundhouse on Wednesday.
— This article appeared on page A3 of the Albuquerque Journal