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Governor again vetoes a bill to give NM judges a raise

Marco Verch
Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham Friday vetoed raises for the state’s judges and justices that the Legislature had approved, saying she "appreciated the intent" of the measure but couldn't support it in its current form.

For the second year in a row, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has vetoed raises for the state’s judges and justices that the Legislature had approved.

Chief Justice C. Shannon Bacon called on legislators to approve the raises in her State of the Judiciary address at the beginning of the year.

“Passing this legislation will improve the judiciary’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality judges with diverse practice backgrounds,” she told the joint session of the state House and Senate.

And the Legislature agreed, passing Senate Bill 2 in both chambers with overwhelming majorities.

The bill would have tied the salaries of state supreme court justices to those of federal magistrate judges, amounting to an 18% raise. Lower court judges, except for magistrates, would have also gotten a bump, since they make a percentage of what the justices do.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham simply let the clock run out on thejudicial raises bill last year — what’s called a “pocket veto” — but this year actively nixed the measure.

That was despite bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Doña Ana) saying that the governor had been in touch with the judiciary and was now more committed to the raises.

“I’m confident the governor will sign it this year,” he told his Senate colleagues during last month’s debate.

In her veto message, the governor acknowledged the need for the state to increase judicial salaries to remain competitive but said she could not support the bill in its current form.

She took issue with tying the salaries to those of federal judges, saying that could prove “problematic” down the line. She also called out “inefficiencies” in the court system overall, urging more targeted investments. She encouraged the Legislature to work with her in reconsidering their approach to the issue.

Lujan Grisham did, however, sign legislation this year to give elected officials a pay hike. She will not receive one personally, though her successor will.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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