SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on Wednesday vetoed a proposed 10 percent pay raise for statewide elected officials — including her successor — as well as utility regulators.
In a written veto message, the second term Republican chastised the Legislature for choosing pay raises for politicians over sound fiscal policy and legislation that supports a healthy state economy.
The raises would have increased state spending by about $135,000 a year, beginning in 2019.
The bill would have raised salaries for the first time since 2002 for the state governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, secretary of state and public lands commissioner, as well as members of the Public Regulation Commission that oversees investor-owned utilities. Martinez cannot run for a third term in November.
Many lawmakers have said current salaries for statewide elected official are no longer commensurate with responsibilities and have fallen far behind pay for subordinates.
The Legislature’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year would increase general fund spending by $259 million to roughly $6.3 billion.
Martinez has until March 7 to act on that bill and has said that she is generally in agreement with priorities for increase spending on education, public safety and business incentives.
The proposed budget includes an 8.5 percent pay increase is slated for state police, prison guards and parole officers. Base pay increases of at least 2 percent were allotted to public school teachers and all state employees.
Martinez also signed several bills Wednesday to provide support and recognition to military members, veterans and their families.
One signed bill will expand eligibility for a financial assistance program to all members of the National Guard and their families. The program can help pay for food, rent and utilities amid financial emergencies.
Martinez also signed legislation that aims to expedite teacher licenses for spouses of military members who relocate to New Mexico and have been trained as educators.
Another approved bill prohibits false claims of military service for personal gain such as employment or appointment to public office.
Legislation also was signed to limit the ability of health insurance companies to require less expensive drugs before costlier options.
Critics of the insurance practice known as step therapy say it can cause unnecessary suffering, while proponents say it helps rein in drug costs.
Other signed legislation will influence how the state responds to drug-overdose deaths, allow oil well regulators to collect larger financial assurances, and provide criminal penalties for water system operators who lie to state environmental regulators.
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