The state Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Susana Martinez's line-item veto of bill with a $128 million tax increase on businesses to shore up New Mexico's unemployment compensation fund was unconstitutional and ordered that the bill be reinstated into law.
After the regular session early this year, Martinez vetoed a provision of an unemployment bill that would have increased what businesses pay into the unemployment fund. However, the governor let stand a part of that bill that cut nearly $80 million in unemployment benefits.
Several Democratic legislators, including House Speaker Ben Luján and Rep. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque, last May petitioned the high court, asking that the partial veto be declared unconstitutional.
The court in July put off ruling on it, saying it wanted the governor and Legislature to try to resolve differences during the special session, which took place in September.
However, that didn't work out so well. No bill dealing with the program was passed.
In the 20-page decision, Justice Edward Chavez concluded that after the governor's veto, "what remained was an unworkable piece of legislation."
Moments ago, Martinez's spokesman, Scott Darnell commented: "Gov. Martinez used her line-item authority in the same way Governor Richardson did in 2010 and disagrees with the Court's decision today. Unfortunately, Democrats will get their wish to raise taxes on small businesses to fund unemployment benefits, even though the unemployment rate in New Mexico has fallen from 8.7 percent in January to 6.6 percent today.
"The Governor remains committed to working across party lines to reform the unemployment insurance system in a way that puts more New Mexicans back to work and keeps unemployment rates fair and stable for New Mexico small businesses by removing politics and basing rates on sound actuarial data," Darnell said.
Below is the Supreme Court's decision:
NM Supreme Court Unemployment Decision