Bill would nix lottery scholarship mandate

State law requires the New Mexico Lottery to allocate 30 percent of its gross revenues for college scholarships, a program that helped defray expenses for some 26,000 students last year. So effective was this system that it funneled more than $40 million annually to the scholarship program for nine consecutive years, helping many students obtain a college degree without the crushing debt that can come with loans. But lottery revenues dipped in 2017, a fact that figures heavily in another attempt to change the law. A Republican lawmaker has revived an annual bill to eliminate the requirement of pledging 30 percent of gross lottery revenues to college scholarships. House Bill 147, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith of Sandia Park, proposes that at least $38 million in net revenue go to the scholarship program.

Legislative panel hears arguments for liquor tax increase

TAOS — An advocacy group pushing for an increase in alcohol taxes in New Mexico encouraged lawmakers Tuesday to bring the issue to the upcoming special session. Alcohol Taxes Save Lives Director Peter DeBenedittis presented his findings to the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee that show many likely voters in the state are in favor of increasing taxes on alcohol by 25 cents a drink. DeBenedittis’ group recently released a poll showing 75 percent of New Mexicans are at least somewhat in favor of an increased alcohol tax. The poll also showed how many likely voters in New Mexico said they would cross party lines and vote for someone who supported raising the excise tax. In all, the poll found 28 percent said they are “at least somewhat likely” to do so.