Inside the Capitol

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fw: 3-2 No End In Sight For Session

WED, 3-2-11

SANTA FE - This year marks the latest the New Mexico House has gotten the big budget bill to the Senate in a long time. Many years ago, the major battles during legislative sessions were between the House and Senate.
The House would wait until the final days of a session to send the appropriation bill to the Senate in order to give solons little time to make any changes. But senators found a way around the situation. They began holding their own hearings on agency budgets beginning early in the session and sometimes wrote their own bills.
Eventually lawmakers decided that fighting among themselves was counterproductive and only strengthened the governor's position when he got out his veto pen after the session ended.
There is a law that says the governor has only three days to act on a bill received more than three days before the end of a legislative session. So if lawmakers get an appropriation bill passed in time, they have the opportunity to override any vetoes a governor might make.
So a timetable was established two or three decades ago calling for the House to get the appropriation bill to the Senate by mid-session and for the Senate to get the bill to the governor several days before the session's end.
This year it didn't work. As mentioned often in this column, the two branches of government are still feeling each other out. The biggest barrier has been the film industry expense rebate. The House didn't lower it from 25 percent to 15 percent as Gov. Susana Martinez proposed.
House leaders and the governor finally worked out a compromise the governor said she would consider but final agreement on that subject still is far away. House members and the governor still are shaky and the Senate has yet to render its opinion on the film rebate.
The plain truth is that adoption and signing of a budget are nowhere in sight. Special session talk is floating around the Legislature already. Senators, who all are in the middle of their four-year terms, are the most predictable.
But the new House Republicans, elected in large numbers last November, are a huge unknown - even to House Republican leader Tom Taylor. And what Gov. Martinez will do with the budget bill also is a mystery.
One lawyer lobbyist recently observed that Martinez still is thinking like a district attorney. She has all the facts. She knows she's right. And nothing is going to change her mind. Compromise is out of the question. Acting tough is the way to win.
Martinez also is being watched by Republican bigwigs in Washington, who have sent people to the state to help her out. All new Republican governors are being counseled from Washington and from all indications, Martinez wants to stand out.
On the issue of film rebates, I am told executives from the top Hollywood studios have been to New Mexico on more than one occasion to talk with the governor and work out solutions that will benefit everyone. But they are shunted off to staff people and nothing is accomplished.
According to film industry representatives, it isn't about the money because they have proposed ways to work that out. It's about politics. Could it be that Hollywood is too closely aligned with Democrats? Or was it too close to former Gov. Bill Richardson?
Richardson did schmooze Hollywood but he isn't the governor who brought them here. That was Republican Gov. Dave Cargo, who established the nation's first state film office and film commission. He also appeared in several movies shot in New Mexico. And it was under tight-fisted Republican Gov. Gary Johnson that the film rebates began.
How will this all shake out? Will it get more exciting? And what about the price of gasoline? The last time gas approached $4 a gallon, the state was rolling in money from the oil industry? Could that help the budget standoff?


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