Gov. refutes accusations of “closed-door meetings” from GOP lawmakers

Politics - Government

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The governor is firing back after Republican state lawmakers accused her of shutting them out of the conversation, over what to do with federal relief dollars. Monday, House Republicans formally called for an “extraordinary special session” to take control of the $1.75 billion in federal aid.

It comes after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham vetoed lawmakers’ plans for the money, saying it’s the governor’s job to divvy up those funds. Now, the GOP is accusing her of holding “closed-door” meetings to plan where that money goes, a claim the governor’s office calls an outright lie.

The House GOP shared the following on Monday, calling for the extraordinary session:

“House Republican Whip Rod Montoya today formally requested that the Legislative Council Services draft a petition to convene the New Mexico Legislature in an Extraordinary Legislative Session as soon as possible in order to allocate some $1.75 billion dollars in federal COVID-19 relief. Governor Lujan Grisham vetoed more than $1.2 billion in federal relief funds that were approved by the Legislature earlier this year, asserting she has sole discretion in spending these federal  COVID relief dollars.  An extraordinary special session called for by the Legislature would allow the legislative branch an opportunity to either override the Governor’s vetoes or create a process where an agreement could be reached between the Legislature and the Governor as to how these federal dollars should be spent and then the Legislature would vote to approve such an agreement.

Additionally, House Republicans have been made aware of a series of closed door meetings between Democrat legislative leaders and the Governor, as well as secretive memos circulating the Capitol Building, regarding a “plan” to spend the $1.75 billion the state treasury recently received from the federal government.  The behind closed door meetings and secretive memos are circumventing open-government and transparency efforts that both the House GOP leadership and the public have been demanding for years.

House Republicans strongly believe that the State Legislature must have a voice in deciding how this $1.75 billion in federal COVID relief should be spent and any agreements between Democrat leaders and the Governor’s office should be subject to full public transparency.  The state’s constitution provides “power of the purse” to the Legislature and in past years there have been bipartisan efforts made to ensure that the State Constitution’s separation of powers is not eroded by secretive deal making.”

Gov. Lujan Grisham and her office released the following statement on Tuesday, responding to the allegations:

“The state House Republican caucus earlier today issued a news release claiming to display ‘the governor’s closed-door “plan” to spend $1.75 billion – each word of that assertion is a lie.

“The document the caucus distributed is not the governor’s; it was not created by this office, nor anyone or any agency in this administration. The truth is, we don’t know who it belongs to. It’s not ours.
“Despite repeated Republican assertions to the contrary, the governor has not excluded Republicans or held any ‘closed-door’ anything on this subject. In fact, the governor has already invited Republican legislative leadership from both chambers to meet with her so they can convey whatever ideas and suggestions they might have about recovery funding.

“And the document does not represent the governor’s ‘plan’ for spending federal stimulus money. The governor and several of her representatives have said this publicly and often, and I will repeat it here: the governor’s plan for how the state may put federal stimulus funding to its best and most effective use on behalf of New Mexico workers and families will be distributed as soon as it is finalized.

“The House Republican caucus is entitled to their own views – no matter how out of step with New Mexico values, no matter how wildly divorced from the reality we all live in – but they are not entitled to blatant, lazy lies. Elected officials should be held to a much higher standard, especially when political disinformation and unchecked conspiracy theories have already caused so much violence and given rise to so much hate.”

Tripp Stelnicki,  director of communications for the Office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state government of New Mexico

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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