More than a month after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham vetoed tentative steps that state legislators had taken to address New Mexico’s worst-in-the-nation rate of alcohol-related deaths, her office offered rationales that don’t square with her actions. The governor vetoed the first increase in alcohol tax rates in 30 years but she does not oppose increasing alcohol taxes, her spokesperson Maddy Hayden emailed New Mexico In Depth. The one-penny increase — watered down from a proposed hike of a quarter-per-drink—“would not have a material effect on alcohol prevention and treatment,” Hayden added, declining to say whether the governor supported a larger hike. The governor also vetoed a measure that would have directed tens of millions of dollars of existing alcohol tax revenues to alcohol treatment and prevention but she “believes unequivocally” that New Mexico needs to devote more resources to addressing alcohol misuse, according to Hayden. The governor felt the Legislature’s tax package represented “a potentially untenable hit to the general fund” and vetoed the reallocation of alcohol tax revenues “out of fiscal responsibility,” Hayden said, declining to clarify why the governor didn’t then retain the alcohol tax hike, which would have generated $10 million annually.
The vetoes continue to puzzle and disappoint Democratic legislators and senior members of her own administration.