Richardson Vetoes NM Legislative Pension Measure

April 9, 2007 ( - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson vetoed a measure raising the pension benefits of the state's legislators.

A news report in the Santa Fe New Mexican said Richardson took no action on Senate Bill 680 by Friday – the deadline to act on legislation approved during the 60-day regular session that ended March 17 – in what is known as a “pocket veto.”

The Governor, who has turned aside similar pension boosts in the last two years, asserted in his latest veto message that lawmakers’ current pension is “sufficient” and that the legislators were never supposed to rely on their pensions for their only income source.  

“This would contradict the institutional notion of an unpaid ‘citizen legislature’ that exists in New Mexico until such time as the citizens of the state elect to change the nature of legislative service,” Richardson said, according to the news report.

State Senator Phil Griego, sponsor of the vetoed measure, said he might back a proposed constitutional amendment to pay legislators an annual salary. Griego acknowledged it would be tough to persuade voters to approve such a plan and said many people do not have much respect for the work lawmakers do.

New Mexico legislators are paid a daily rate – currently $142 – to cover their expenses while they are in session or working on interim committees. That might reimburse lawmakers for their food and lodging, but it doesn’t leave much to pay them for their work, Griego said.

The current formula for figuring out legislative pensions is based on lawmakers’ daily payment rate as of December 31 of the year the lawmaker retires. Under Griego’s bill, the pension would have been based on the average of the three highest rates on July 1 of each year the lawmaker served and would have bumped up pensions by about 20%, according to the news report.