Governor cancels junior bill, cutting funding for new language access mandate
Hundreds of projects across the state have had their funding cut by a veto from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Wednesday was the last day for the governor to act on legislation passed during this year’s 30-day legislative session that ended Feb. 17.
Senate Bill 48 was vetoed. The spending bill earmarked $50.4 million to cover everything from food insecurity measures in Bernalillo County, youth recreation programs in Doña Ana County and lights for a library in Cibola County.
The measure, commonly referred to as the Junior Bill in the Roundhouse, was viewed by the governor as fiscally irresponsible.
In his veto message, Lujan Grisham wrote that SB 48 “bypasses the important budget and capital expenditure process that forms the basis of other larger appropriation bills.
The Governor signed the General Appropriations Bill and the Capital Spending Bill into law.
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“Many of the projects listed in SB 48 are not fully funded – leaving open the possibility that money will be wasted on projects that will never be completed,” the governor wrote.
The bill also included money for legislation passed during the session that was signed into law by the governor, leaving advocates wondering how the state will pay for their new legal obligation.
Sachi Watase of the Asian Family Center of New Mexico was part of the coalition that passed the requirements for state agencies to provide better language access services — translators and interpreters — to people who don’t speak English.
“It’s a little complicated because the bill has passed and been signed into law, but now there’s no funding associated with it,” Watase said. “And so it could be difficult for those agencies to then be able to create those plans and do what the bill asks them to do without having a dedicated person that that funding could have potentially hired or supported. They may find it difficult to follow through on these plans.
Originally, the bill requested money from the general fund, but this was withdrawn during a committee. Pulling $110,000 in recurring funds from the Junior Bill instead, it passed both houses.
The measure was signed by the governor last week. She did not respond to a request for comment asking for further explanation of the initiative’s funding veto.
State aids and services set to become more linguistically accessible
Watase is unsure about the other bills, but said she is confident that the services required under HB 22, including an analysis of the languages used by people accessing public services for food and health care, are ready to start and will be completed if funded.
“I don’t really know which direction it’s going to go or what it means at this point, but it could mean that each of these agencies are left to figure it out on their own and only with the funding they already have.” , she says.
The Department of Health was supposed to get $1.3 million from the junior bill to pay for projects like a statewide dance program for low-income students and an expansion of testing services and prevention of STDs and HIV.
More than $2.6 million was earmarked for Department of Public Education services – programs such as media literacy, youth film training, an activity bus at Animas and farm equipment for outdoor classrooms at Hobbs.