February 5, 2016

Food tax opponents vow it ‘will stay dead’

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Matthew Reichbach

In 2010, opponents of a food tax gather tortillas to show legislators their opposition.

There are few proposals in New Mexico that will draw quicker opposition than reimposing the food tax.

In 2010, opponents of a food tax gather tortillas to show legislators their opposition.

Matthew Reichbach

In 2010, opponents of a food tax gather tortillas to show legislators their opposition.

Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, introduced such a proposal earlier this week and opponents mobilized quickly.

The think tank Think New Mexico made sure the media and their supporters knew about the bill.

“Unbelievably, on the final day for bill introductions, Senate Bill 281 was introduced to reimpose the food tax on New Mexico families,” the think tank said in an email to supporters.

Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, said they were ready if the idea gains traction this year, which he doesn’t expect.

“We’ve already ordered the tortillas,” Sanchez said. “We’ll be back here with a semi full of tortillas as fast as they can think. And they’ll all be expired tortillas because it’s an old idea and it’s a dead idea, and it should stay dead.”

Sanchez’s reference to tortillas came from 2010, when opponents to an attempt to reimpose the tax was delivered tortillas to legislators and deemed it the “tortilla tax.”

That food tax effort did not pass the Legislature.

“Are we so lacking in new ideas for boosting our economy that we are going to go back and fully tax fruits, vegetables and baby food, like Mississippi and Alabama?” Think New Mexico executive director Fred Nathan told NM Political Report in a statement. “I know we can do better.”

Even Smith knows that the proposal won’t go anywhere. He told KRQE he introduced the legislation to let the public know that the budget situation is dire this year.

At one point, projections said that there would be $230 million in new money. Now, the projections say it is closer to $30 million.

Sanchez says he hasn’t spoken to Smith about the food tax yet this year.

“But he knows we’ll be here quick if that gets any traction,” he said. “The bishops will be loud and clear against it.”

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