Members of the House of Representatives concurred Wednesday with changes to the budget that the Senate made earlier this week. In a statement through her press secretary, Martinez said that budget was unacceptable to her and "would be vetoed in its current form."
The House vote for the budget was 37-33. Nearly all the opposition was from Republicans who focused on only one of the changes the Senate made in the budget it approved on a 42-0 vote.
Senators stripped away money for teacher merit pay, a program the Republican governor wanted. Instead, senators allocated money so teachers at highly rated schools would be paid more if they took reassignments at schools with D and F grades under the state rating system.
During floor debate, Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said Martinez would veto the bill unless the House tried to work out a compromise to save the merit pay initiative. He urged Democrats to restore that program so they could avoid a veto and the special legislative session that would be needed to rework the budget.
This brought a sharp response from Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque. She said House rules made it inappropriate to mention the governor during floor debate, especially with the intent to intimidate or sway votes.
"We need to think independently. We need to vote independently," Louis said.
In a statement, Martinez criticized Democrats for the confrontation.
"I'm very disappointed in the lack of compromise by the other party, and by the unbalanced approach to our state budget taken by many lawmakers," she said. "While the Democrats want me to agree to pay increases for government employees and larger subsidies for Hollywood corporations, they have refused to pass meaningful education reforms to improve student achievement, and they have refused to lower taxes to make New Mexico more competitive to help businesses grow and to create more jobs."
Legislators approved a 1 percent increase for most state employees and a 4 percent raise for some in law enforcement. As for the movie and TV production rebates that Martinez referred to, they would not increase overall spending but would allow larger tax credits for long-running television series shot in New Mexico.
In criticizing Democrats, Martinez mentioned a contentious issue that had little to do with the budget.
"They have also refused to pass a bill repealing the law giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, despite my repeated attempts at compromise," she said.
Rep. Rick Miera, D-Albuquerque, has said the governor offered no compromise on the driver's license issue — only an interest in having her own way.
During floor debate, Miera said the budget covered more than 200 pages but Republicans were fixated on the small section that dealt with merit pay for teachers.
Miera said the budget was balanced and a work of compromise. The House finance chairman, Rep. Henry "Kiki" Saavedra, D-Albuquerque, agreed with Miera.
Savaadra said the Senate added about $12 million and "mostly what the governor wanted." Public education accounts for nearly half the budget at $2.54 billion.
The most impassioned speech came from Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque. She questioned Martinez's motives on merit pay.
"Is this about children and education or is it about trying to make a point?" Stapleton said.
She said Republicans provided no evidence that merit pay for teachers would improve students' performance. The idea of putting strong teachers in low-performing schools was a good one, Stapleton said.
Stapleton also said the governor's focus on merit pay was at odds with the unanimous Senate vote for the budget. All 17 Republican senators agreed to the plan to reward teachers who move to low-performing schools, where Stapleton said they are needed most.
She dismissed the governor's objections as petty.
"You call it what you call it. If I call it what I want to call it, I will make the news tonight," Stapleton said.
Rep. Lucky Varela, D-Santa Fe, said compromise was part of the budget, even if the governor said otherwise.
"I recognize we can't have everything for everyone.... We wanted a budget that would be balanced and where the governor would have some flexibility for tax cuts, he said.
The Republicans' floor leader, Rep. Don Bratton of Hobbs, said New Mexico for 10 years had poured money into the same types of education programs without seeing improvement in student performance.
He said he recognized that "saber rattling" by the governor might be hanging over the House, but still said merit pay should be implemented.
"It disappoints me that we're not willing to try something different," Bratton said.
Rep. Mimi Stewart, a retired teacher, said the Republicans' disparagement of teachers and public schools was misguided.
"Every state gets to pick its own standards-based assessment, and we set the bar high," Stewart, a Bernalillo Democrat, said of how difficult New Mexico's tests are.
The 60-day legislative session ends Saturday. If Martinez vetoes the budget, she would call a special session on that matter and probably driver's licenses too.