SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is defending her authority to decide how the state will spend more than $1 billion federal pandemic aid — without the approval of the Legislature.

In a written court briefing Friday, Lujan Grisham said a state Supreme Court decision nearly 50 years ago upheld the governor’s discretion over federal funding at universities and should hold true today more broadly regarding federal pandemic relief funds.

Republican Senate minority leader Gregory Baca of Belen and Democratic Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque have asked the Supreme Court to intervene and rein in the governor’s authority to spend without legislative approval.

Lujan Grisham, who is running for reelection in 2022, has used the relief funds to replenish the state unemployment insurance trust, underwrite millions of dollars in sweepstakes prizes for people who got vaccinated, prop up agriculture wages amid a shortage of chile pickers and provide incentives for the unemployed to return to work. Decisions are pending on more than $1 billion in federal relief.

New Mexico’s state treasurer says a close reading of the state Constitution shows that the Legislature should help determine how to spend a recent round of pandemic relief signed by President Joe Biden in March.

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