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New Mexico GOP wants public debate on pandemic relief money

June 28, 2021 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in the minority of the New Mexico Legislature are objecting to private negotiations with the Democratic governor regarding $1.75 billion in federal pandemic relief and how it will be spent.

On Monday the spending was discussed during a closed meeting of a panel of leading legislators, disappointing Republicans. They called for an additional session of the Legislature to debate the funding and the veto.

“She is completely bypassing the appropriating body,” Rep. Rod Montoya said following the closed discussion he took part in.

Lujan Grisham believes the funds are hers to appropriate, because of the way the federal statute is written.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature disagreed and appropriated the funds as part of a budget passed this spring. In order to gain control over the funds, Lujan Grisham vetoed portions of the bill. Some Democrats complained about the move, but haven’t aggressively pursued a lawsuit.

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Lujan Grisham’s Republic predecessor Susana Martinez was sued over her use of the veto.

The governor also says she’s consulting with lawmakers and will announce her plans for the funds “soon.”

“The governor has talked to all legislative leadership, including the Republican leadership, about some aspects of the federal spending she plans to prioritize,” said Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.