A bruising 60-day legislative session ended today amidst frustration and finger-pointing, with a $264 million public works package dying due to a stalemate between Democrats and Republicans.
It was the first time since 2011 that lawmakers had not approved a capital outlay bill to fun senior centers, school improvements and other infrastructure projects.
Meanwhile, a bundle of proposed tax breaks also fell victim to a testy final morning at the Roundhouse.
Lawmakers did approve a $6.2 billion budget for next year and a new 22-year gambling compact between the state and Indian tribes — the two “must-do” items of the session. They also sent a proposed ban on civil asset forfeiture to Gov. Susana Martinez for final consideration.
But much of the final hours of the session, at least in the House, were spent in a fierce debate over the public works package, which was overhauled yesterday by House Republicans.
House Democrats attempted unsuccessfully to undo the changes to the Senate-approved bill, arguing the revisions would hurt Indian Country schools and senior citizens.
“I’m not here to carry water for Governor Martinez,” House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, told a House Republican at one point during the debate. “I hope you’re not either.”
But GOP lawmakers fired back, with Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, accusing Democrats of “hurting communities” by drawing out debate on the bill.
The measure was ultimately passed on a 36-32 vote with just 20 minutes left in the session. But the Senate did not sign off on the House changes, meaning the bill died with noon adjournment.
Three state senators who were dispatched as a formality to tell the governor the session had ended said she greeted them angrily in her office, accusing the Senate of killing the capital outlay bill.
Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, described Martinez as “hostile” and “vindictive.”
“It really had the feel of a dictator who had been thwarted,” said Ortiz y Pino.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said the Senate was “sucker-punched” by what the House did to the capital outlay bill, removing projects the Senate put in.
But Martinez, in remarks to reporters, blamed Senate Democrats for killing the public works package, which she said could have created new jobs around the state.
“Unfortunately, this session ended in the same fashion it was operated since day one,” Martinez said. “Senate Democrats chose to obstruct, to delay, chose gridlock, chose partisanship, and they chose not to compromise.”