The best thing that may be said about Republican State Representative Rod Montoya’s recent comments – aired in a few media outlets – regarding the state budget passed by the Legislature is that they were highly misleading. Rep. Montoya claimed Democrats wasted time and exploited the budget crisis to raise taxes. While mostly rehashing tired attacks on Democrats often heard at election time that are short on specifics, he also accused the legislative majority of “wast[ing] time on green chile legislation.” Rep. Montoya thinks the majority did not address any important issues during the legislative session. Nothing, as they say, could be further from the truth.
First of all, the Legislature did pass a balanced budget for next year, fiscal year 2018. That budget was responsible and bipartisan – at least in the Senate, where it passed 34 to 4. Unlike the reckless one offered by Gov. Susana Martinez and her uber-partisan Republican helpers like Rep. Montoya in the House, it would have prevented further cuts to K-12 classrooms and other key services like law enforcement. Importantly, it would have replenished our reserves to avoid another downgrade of the state’s bond rating. Another downgrade would cost New Mexico additional millions in future borrowing. We can’t afford that.
For three years we have cut schools and essential services to the bone. Cutting more is no longer an option. That is why Democrats and Republicans alike in the Senate made the courageous decision to pass a revenue package, with strong bipartisan agreement, that protects public education, health care and public safety on an ongoing basis. We also passed the most significant tax reform legislation in a generation, but apparently Rep. Montoya is unaware of it.
Rep. Montoya himself voted “no” on emergency funding to keep state courts open this year. Had his view prevailed, criminals might have been necessarily turned loose on the streets, according to the chief justice of the Supreme Court. That’s not responsible legislating.
In a sometimes grueling 60-day session, the Legislature spent mere moments on naming the green chile cheeseburger the state’s favorite food. In the Senate it actually died in the Rules Committee without being discussed. It wasn’t Democrats alone who sought the designation, and it certainly did no harm to the Legislature’s impressive, material accomplishments for the people of our state.
The governor has chosen to do the wrong thing by vetoing the budget and the package of needed new revenues we in the Legislature passed. It was an extremely reckless action on her part. Both measures were responsible; both were bipartisan. Since she torpedoed this grown-up solution, she ought to articulate now exactly what services she wants to cut and eliminate instead of having fixed the $350 million shortfall New Mexico faces. The Legislature had already solved the problem for her.