A Democrat representative in New Mexico, State Representative Miguel P. García (D-Albuquerque), has taken legal action against Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham over her veto of significant portions of an omnibus tax bill during the 2023 legislative session. García filed a petition in the New Mexico Supreme Court on September 6, 2023, seeking to declare the governor’s actions unconstitutional. To assist in this legal challenge, García enlisted the support of a lawyer and former New Mexico Senator Jacob Candelaria (I-Albuquerque).
The focus of the legal action is House Bill 547, which García contends is primarily a tax bill, not a bill appropriating money. He argues that Governor Lujan Grisham exceeded her limited line-item veto authority by striking down most of the bill, including provisions related to tax proposals to exempt more Social Security retirement income from State Income Tax.
House Bill 547 was a substantial piece of legislation during the recent legislative session, spanning over 100 pages. It sought to bring about various changes, including adjustments to the state’s income tax brackets, establishing a single corporate income tax rate, and introducing tax credits for a wide range of workers. This bipartisan effort was hailed as one of the most comprehensive tax reforms in recent years.
However, when the bill reached the governor’s desk, Lujan Grisham exercised her veto power to eliminate significant portions, including the proposed changes to the state’s income tax brackets. In her message to the legislature explaining her decision, she expressed concerns about the overall sustainability of the tax package, citing potential impacts on essential services and programs such as education, healthcare, public safety, and infrastructure.
Despite her veto, the governor did acknowledge her support for specific aspects of the bill. She emphasized her approval of portions that provided one-time tax rebates, increased the child income tax credit, enhanced the benefits of the film tax credit, and expanded the health practitioners’ gross receipts tax deduction. According to her statement, these measures aligned with her commitment to supporting working families, the healthcare system, and the state’s economy.
KRQE News 13 reached out to the governor’s office for a response to the legal challenge seeking to overturn the vetoes. In response, Caroline Sweeney, the governor’s press secretary, issued a statement acknowledging the right of New Mexicans to use the judicial system for seeking change and stated that they anticipate the suit will be dismissed after a judge’s review.
The legal dispute centers on interpreting the New Mexico Constitution, which grants the governor the authority to veto entire bills and approve or disapprove parts of any bill appropriating money. The petition argues that this language prevents the governor from vetoing portions of a tax bill like House Bill 547, which does not appropriate money. Candelaria contends that while the bill does mention money, such as tax rebate checks approved by lawmakers, a separate law appropriates those funds.
It remains to be seen when the New Mexico Supreme Court will address this issue, as there is no specific time obligation outlined in the state’s court procedures under Rule Set 12.