- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico lawmakers on Monday approved funding for the current legislative session and to the judiciary to pay for jury trials, after an earlier version of the bill was vetoed.

The Senate and House approved amendments that reduce funding for the current legislative session by $300,000 from a bill vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez last week. The Administrative Office of the Courts would receive an $800,000 infusion to ensure continued funding of jury trials and court interpreters for months to come. The governor’s support was uncertain on Monday evening.

The ordinarily routine “feed” bill became a lightning rod for debate as Martinez accused the Democratic majority in the House and Senate of protecting their own budget amid a state budget crisis.

Year-round funding to the Legislative branch was cut by 3 percent in October, with another $3 million recently taken from its reserves to shore up the state general fund.

Republican House Minority Leader Nate Gentry said austerity measures approved by the House of Representatives were unfairly stripped out by the Senate.

The roughly $9 million spending bill represents a tiny fraction of the state’s annual $6 billion general fund budget.

New Mexico is grappling with a budget shortfall and plunging tax revenues linked to a downturn in the oil and natural gas sectors, a tepid local economy and a corresponding drop in state revenue.

The governor has until Tuesday afternoon to decide on provisions of a $216 million package of budget-balancing bills approved by the Legislature last week. That plan targets cash reserves at public school districts while sweeping money together from dozens of state accounts and select programs for economic development and education.

The chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court warned lawmakers this month that spending reductions threaten to undercut constitutional guarantees for residents to speedy trials and other judicial services.

While approving funding for juries, the Legislature dropped $80,000 in emergency funding to the Supreme Court designed to avoid possible unpaid staff furloughs.

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