Cautious optimism as state’s budget situation improves

New Mexico finally received some good news on the budget after two years of sharp downward trends. Of course, recovering from those losses will still take time. This morning, two cabinet-level secretaries and the Legislature’s top economist presented revenue estimates to the Legislative Finance Committee that project the state will have $199 million in new funds for the budget next year. Presenters warned they were only cautiously optimistic on the budget surplus because of a number of potential risks that the state has little to no control over. The news is better than what the committee heard in August, and the revenue is expected to come from larger-than-previously-expected growth revenues from personal income taxes, corporate income taxes and money received from the oil and gas industry.

Committee hears about problems with two-tier license system

New Mexico’s two-tiered driver’s license law that Gov. Susana Martinez celebrated as a political victory has been a horror show for ordinary people, Democratic state senators said Thursday. “We are making it really hard,” said Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Santa Fe. “Immigrants, homeless people, elders … we’re really making it difficult for people in the state.” The law gives state residents without proof of immigration status an opportunity to obtain a driving privilege card.

Acting TRD head talks about Padilla resignation

The highest-ranking official at the state Taxation and Revenue Department became somewhat reflective Tuesday over last week’s sudden resignation of his former boss, Demesia Padilla. At an annual state legislative conference hosted by the New Mexico Tax Research Institute, the department’s Deputy Secretary John Monforte said he’s known Padilla for 10 years and came to the department when she was appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Padilla resigned as secretary last week after an agent for Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a search warrant affidavit on her home. Monforte is now heading the department. The affidavit described an ongoing investigation that points to possible tax evasion and alleged embezzlement of money from a business she once did accounting work for, including while she was TRD secretary.