It’s one thing to stand your ground, and it’s another thing to do so when everything around you is crumbling.
Gov. Susana Martinez missed a big opportunity to be a true leader, one who set a tough line on spending when it came to repairing the state’s budget, but one willing to meet lawmakers, including those from her own Republican Party, halfway. Her failure to collaborate with them is going to cost the state dearly – not just Democrats, not just people she doesn’t like, but everyone. Taos County is no exception.
And it was unnecessary.
The governor vetoed a hard-won budget bill that was hashed out in the 60-day session and finally agreed to by members of both parties. It was a bill that offered her choices on how to shore up revenues in the beleaguered state budget without increasing taxes on some of her pet industries.
Instead, with the stroke of her pen, she did away with all that hard negotiating between lawmakers. She cut $750 million in funds, money meant for all state universities, including University of New Mexico-Taos, and cut the entire budget to pay legislative staff – all New Mexicans whose families also depend on their income. This was a governor who said she was all about helping New Mexico families.
She said lawmakers didn’t go far enough in crafting the budget bill they sent her. Perhaps she’s miffed that her pet bills didn’t make it through and she’s throwing a tantrum through her veto power. And because both houses in the state Capitol are controlled by Democrats, she lays the blame on them.
Now she’ll spend tens of thousands more taxpayer dollars when she forces lawmakers back into a special session – unless she expects all of the staff required for one to work for free.
Instead of taking the high road, proving herself as adept in governing as she once did in defending the rights of children in court as an attorney, Martinez has simply sunk deeper into a quagmire of ineffectiveness that’s plagued her in this second term.
She and her administration have been unable to help the state out of its dire financial straits. They take the easy way out by blaming money trouble on poor treatment of the oil and gas industry and stonewalling by their Democratic opponents. Then, when a solution is placed before her, she guts it.
She’s harped on a few issues, such as taking away driver’s licenses from undocumented immigrants, while being unable to resolve bigger, more immediate needs, such as the lack of decent-paying jobs.
And when she had the chance to help thousands of low-wage workers – of which there are many in Taos – who are trying to be responsible and earn their own way, Martinez denied them a few dollars more in their paychecks by nixing an increased minimum wage bill.
It is time for the governor to step up to the plate in the special session, set aside politics and her wounded ego, meet lawmakers halfway and put the state back on the path to financial stability.