Sun-News Reports | lcsun-news.com –
Gov. Susana Martinez, who has been resolute in opposing all tax increases throughout her two terms in office, has vetoed legislation that would have imposed a $100 fee on pet foods sold in the state in order to fund low-cost spay and neuter services.
Supporters of House Bill 64 argued that the $100 would be added to the $2 registration fee already paid by pet manufacturers, so it should not be considered a new tax.
“I’m very disappointed that she didn’t bring this opportunity to save dogs’ and cats’ lives,” said Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, a co-sponsor of the bill. Ferrary said they had worked hard to find a compromise, and the $100 fee is not out of line with what is charged in other states.
“I strongly encourage New Mexicans to spay and neuter their pets. However, this misguided legislation is nothing more than a tax increase that would not solve the problem,” she said. “I gave my word to New Mexicans that I would not raise taxes, and I intend to keep that promise throughout my entire term.”
The governor’s second and final term will end later this year.
Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, argued during the session that funding was needed to address the problem of 112,000 to 115,000 cats and dogs being picked up each year in New Mexico. The vast majority of those animals end up being euthanized, he said.
The bill would have given the Animal Sheltering Board the resources it needs to send mobile spay and neuter clinics throughout the state and work with local veterinarians to provide low-cost services, he said. All pet owners with annual incomes within 200 percent of the poverty level would qualify for services.
But Martinez countered that local governments are better positioned to deal with spay and neuter issues, and noted that some cities, including Las Cruces, have fines or fees for owners who do not spay or neuter their pets.
Ferrary said local governments can’t raise the funds needed to address the problem.
“I’m really disappointed because that’s not a fee that can be assessed at the local level,” she said. “It has to be done at the state level. She has ruined an opportunity for us to reduce our pet overpopulation.”
Ferrary said she would try again next year, when a new governor will be in office.