New Mexico Supreme Court rules to allow state legislature to spend COVID-19 relief dollars

The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in favor of giving lawmakers the authority to spend the roughly $1 billion in remaining federal stimulus money, according to KRQE 13 News.

Justices in the state’s high court heard two hours of oral arguments on Tuesday before they began to deliberate the case around 11:30 a.m and they had reached a verdict around 12:15 p.m. saying that lawmakers have standing in this case.

“The court grants standing to the petitioners on the basis of great public importance,” said Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Vigil.

“The court will order a writ of prohibition and mandamus, prohibiting the Governor and the State Treasurer and all other state officials subject to their accord from transferring, encumbering, committing, expending or appropriating any additional funds out of the state ARPA account in the state treasury, absent of appropriation.”

This issue was brought before the court by Senators Greg Baca (R-Belen) and Jacob Candelaria (D-Albuquerque)  who recently filed the lawsuit against Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, following her veto of how the legislature planned to spend the money.

“The ruling effectively prohibits the governor’s office from continuing to spend any of the remaining roughly $1.1 billion in ARPA funds, without legislative approval,” KRQE 13 News reported.

“Counsel for Gov. Lujan Grisham noted Wednesday the executive branch has not spent any of the remaining funds since the Supreme Court took up the case.

Republicans are calling this a win for New Mexico, saying that the money should be spent on COVID-19 recovery, instead of other projects.

“We now have 112 eyes in the legislature that recognize needs across the state and I think it really can’t be argued that that’s better than just one individual making those decisions,” Republican Senate leader Gregory Baca stated.