In a rare move, Democrat State Auditor Tim Eichenberg, who is term-limited in his current position, is siding with two lawmakers over Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham regarding the Governor’s spending of over $600,000 federal dollars that came through the “American Recovery Plan Act.” She spent the federal cash without the Legislature’s approval.
In September, state Sens. Jacob Candelaria (D-Bernalillo) and Greg Baca (R-Valencia) teamed up to sue Lujan Grisham over the misuse of funds.
In a written response ordered by the state Supreme Court, an attorney for Eichenberg, Linda Bennett, asserted that the expenditure of virus relief funds does, indeed, require legislative approval.
Bennett said, “Under the state constitution, only the Legislature has appropriation authority.”
“The Legislature should have appropriation authority over the funds and then … the governor should get a bill that appropriates the money, and she has the opportunity to veto it or sign it into law. That’s what’s supposed to happen under the constitution.”
Bennett wrote that “governmental action or inaction as to any particular program, public policy initiative, or governmental interest must be subject to participation by New Mexico citizens through the legislative process in our participatory democracy.”
“That’s how you get the most public participation and accountability over the use of the funds,” said Bennett. “That’s what we want, and that’s what the founders envisioned because we have the same system of government in New Mexico as they have at the federal level. That’s how it’s supposed to work.”
But in response, Lujan Grisham’s spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett claimed, “Courts have previously made clear the Legislature may appropriate state, not federal, funds.”
According to a report from the Santa Fe New Mexican, “The state Supreme Court also ordered Lujan Grisham to respond to the lawsuit by Friday. The administration filed a motion Tuesday, which the court granted, allowing its response to be 12,000 words instead of the 6,000 words provided for under the rules.”