If the price of dog and cat food goes up in the near future, it won’t be because of state government.
Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday vetoed House Bill 64, which would have imposed a new fee on pet food to help pay for spay and neuter programs to control animal populations.
“In spite of special interest groups’ efforts to spread misinformation, this bill is a tax increase,” Martinez, a Republican, said in her veto message to legislative leaders. “Although I fully support sensible efforts to spay and neuter pets, this approach is misguided. These procedures should be the responsibility of pet owners. This bill is bad for New Mexico and bad for business.”
In a separate statement, Martinez said she promised not to raise taxes and kept her word by vetoing the bill.
Martinez had telegraphed her decision, saying in a news conference following the end of the legislative session last month that she might not sign the bill.
A trio of Democrats sponsored the measure. Reps. Carl Trujillo of Santa Fe, Debbie Rodella of Española and Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces carried the bill with the encouragement of the advocacy group Animal Protection Voters.
“This is a needed tool to combat an overpopulation of dogs and cats in the state,” Trujillo said in trying to win over colleagues in the Legislature.
He also said the bill would reduce the number of dogs and cats that are euthanized in New Mexico.
The bill would have imposed a $100 fee per label for pet food manufacturers doing business in the state. Backers estimated the bill could raise nearly $1.4 million a year to spay and neuter animals when the fee was fully implemented.
Trujillo said that if pet food manufacturers passed on the increased costs to consumers, it would be minuscule — about $1.50 a year per pet-owning household. That figure, he said, was based on a recent estimate by Animal Protection Voters.
Martinez in her veto message said local governments are better positioned than the state to promote the spaying and neutering of pets.
“Many local governments in New Mexico already charge fines and fees for owners that do not spay or neuter their pets,” she said, mentioning Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Rio Rancho as cities that have such a system.
“These policies charge the pet owners who fail to spay or neuter their animals, instead of the general public,” the governor said. “For example, Albuquerque charges $6 a year for a dog or cat license, but $150 for these animals if they are not spayed or neutered.”
Many Republican lawmakers shared Martinez’s viewpoint that the bill was an unwelcome tax increase.
Nineteen members of the House of Representatives voted against the measure, all of them Republicans. The bill drew less opposition in the Senate, where it carried 30-4. Again, all the opponents were Republicans.