SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The battle between the governor and legislature over who has the power to spend $1.75 billion in federal pandemic relief funding is intensifying. A Democratic senator is now jumping into the fight saying he’ll sue. Senator Jacob Candelaria, an Albuquerque attorney says if that effort fails, he will file a lawsuit to let the Supreme Court decide.

Related Coverage:

“The governor believes she is right. I believe she’s absolutely wrong. This is a matter of significant constitutional importance, and so it’s only appropriate in my view that the Supreme Court step in and tell us who is right,” said Sen. Candelaria.

It’s been a battle for months over who is in control of the millions. The legislature had approved a bill that broke down how it should be spent. However, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham vetoed it saying it’s the governor’s job, not lawmakers to divvy up federal funds.

House Republicans called for an extraordinary special session that would need support from three-fifths of the legislature. However, they need support from Democrats who hold the majority in both chambers to approve to make that happen but so far, only one Democrat has shown support according to legislative council. “Unfortunately, the governor wishes to usurp this power. Why? So that way she can decide how to spend this money while she’s on the campaign trail,” said Sen. Candelaria.

The governor has said she would use the bulk of the federal stimulus money to replenish the funds that pays out unemployment benefits. The governor’s office said Thursday they don’t comment on pending litigation. Democrat Joseph Cervantes says there is a much better way of doing this and doing it right which follows the Constitution and that means the legislature has to appropriate the money.

Republicans have asked lawmakers to approve a petition calling for a special session by the end of Thursday. Republicans are asking Attorney General Hector Balderas to weigh in on whether the governor is following the law.

Read the Republican Party of New Mexico letter to the Attorney General regarding Gov. Lujan Grisham relief spending below: