Two New Mexico lawmakers ask state Supreme Court to grant federal funding discretion to legislature

In a move that is probably not surprising to political insiders, a New Mexico Democratic state senator who sharply criticized the governor joined one of his fellow Republicans in an attempt to block news federal aid spending.

Senator Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, along with Senatorial Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, filed a petition over the weekend with the New Mexico Supreme Court to try to prevent the governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to spend more federal money without seizing legislation.

In a statement, Candelaria said no one should have the authority to manage federal funds sent to New Mexico.

“When I became a senator nearly ten years ago, I took an oath to defend the Constitution and the laws of the state of New Mexico. We have tabled this petition to end the governor’s unconstitutional efforts to usurp the credit power of the legislature by asserting that it, and it alone, has the power to decide how billions of dollars in federal grants are spent, ”he said. declared Candelaria. “In our country, no one is above the law and no one should ever have the power to decide, unilaterally, how much people are taxed or how public money is spent.”

At issue, $ 1.75 billion in federal funds received by New Mexico under the US Federal Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Some state lawmakers have repeatedly called for legislative oversight of federal stimulus money, and during the 2021 regular legislative session, lawmakers attempted to allocate ARPA money to the budget of the ‘State. Lujan Grisham partially vetoed this budget bill and cited a New Mexico Supreme Court case in 1974 in his explanation for not giving the legislature oversight of ARPA funds.

“The New Mexico Supreme Court has found that federal contributions are not an appropriate subject of the legislature’s appropriation power, and the legislature’s attempt to control the use of these funds violates” the executive function of the ‘administration,’ ”Lujan Grisham wrote in his veto message.

Part of that case, which was filed by then-Republican state senator William Sago, also involved federal credits. The state Supreme Court in that case ruled that the legislature did not have the power to allocate federal funds for universities.

“As already stated, our legislature clearly has the power, and perhaps the duty, in appropriating state funds to review the availability of federal funds for certain purposes, but it does not have the power to to appropriate and therefore try to control the manner and extent of the use or expenditure of federal funds made available to our higher education institutions, ”wrote the New Supreme Court judge -Mexico, LaFel Oman. “The control of the expenditure of these funds rests with the federal government and the boards of regents of the respective institutions.”

This state Supreme Court case also cited a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that the appropriation of federal money should be left to the governor.

In Candelaria and Baca’s petition, the two lawmakers wrote that “Lujan Grisham has been far from available” regarding the legal basis for his office to manage federal money. But the petition speculates and anticipates that Lujan Grisham’s office will respond by citing the two state Supreme Court cases from the early 1970s.

But in their petition, Candelaria and Baca wrote that would be a mistake, arguing that the previous New Mexico Supreme Court case had a narrow focus on higher education.

“Such a detention would be anathema to the fundamental public order of this State which confers on the Legislator, the elected representatives of the people, the power to appropriate public money”, wrote the two senators in the petition.

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