Senators Candelaria & Baca File Suit Against Governor

Albuquerque, NM (KKOB) –Senator Jacob Candelaria (D-Bernalillo) and Senator Greg Baca (R-Bernalillo & Valencia) have filed suit against Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, petitioning the New Mexico Supreme Court to halt the Governor’s unconstitutional spending of federal American Recovery Plan Act (“ARPA”) funds without legislative authorization.

“When I became a senator almost a decade ago, I took an oath to defend the Constitution and laws of the state of New Mexico,” said Senator Candelaria. “We have filed this petition to halt the Governor’s unconstitutional efforts to usurp the Legislature’s appropriations power by claiming that she, and she alone, has the power to decide how billions of dollars in federal grant funds are spent. In our country, no one is above the law and no one person should ever have the power to decide, unilaterally, how much people are taxed or how public money is spent.” 

Under Article IV, Section 30 of the New Mexico Constitution, “money shall be paid out of the treasury only upon appropriations made by the Legislature.” State law, meanwhile, dictates that expenditures from the general fund “shall be made only in accordance with appropriations authorized by the Legislature” (NMSA 1978, § 6-4-2).

“As legislators, we must preserve our appropriating authority and affirm the separation and balance of powers enshrined in our Constitution,” added Senator Baca. “The bipartisan opposition to the Governor’s unlawful spending is evidence that this is not a political contest—but rather, a constitutional crisis. The fundamental question before us is whether or not a governor can usurp the legislative process and unilaterally control public money. The Constitution and state law are perfectly clear and we trust that our state’s highest court will rule accordingly.”  

During the 2021 Legislative Session, the Legislature exercised its appropriating authority by directing that New Mexico’s share of ARPA funds be deposited into a contingency fund. The Governor subsequently vetoed the appropriation and language, asserting that in her opinion, the Legislature lacked the authority to direct her administration of federal funds.

As of August 23, 2021, the Governor had already unlawfully appropriated over $600 million in ARPA funds, with approximately $1.08 billion dollars remaining on deposit in the state treasury. The suit does not request that the already unlawfully appropriated funds be returned, but that the court enter an order prohibiting the Governor from expending any additional ARPA funds without a legislative appropriation.