January 18, 2019

GOP blasts idea of paying New Mexico legislators

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

Republicans in the state House of Representatives are blasting a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow legislators to receive a salary.

House Joint Resolution 5 would ask voters to create a commission that would set pay for statewide elected officials and lawmakers, who currently receive a daily stipend but no annual salary.

Related: Bill seeks voter OK to pay legislators a salary

In a statement, House GOP leaders signaled they would not support the measure in the face of proposals by Democrats to raise taxes.

“House Republicans are standing against the Democrat plan to raise taxes on all New Mexicans including needy families to possibly help pay for salaries for Legislators,” a statement from caucus leaders said.

The statement pointed to proposals in House Bill 6 that would raise the tax on gasoline by 10 cents a gallon and raise personal income tax rates.

“While we’re in the midst of a huge budget surplus, any plan to raise taxes on New Mexico families is unacceptable,” said House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia.

Though the proposed commission would not start work until 2023 if voters approve it, tying near-term tax increases to the constitutional amendment suggests opposition to the latter is hardening among House Republicans.

Voters have repeatedly shot down proposals over the last several decades to pay legislators.

But it has not necessarily been a partisan issue. Former Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces, sponsored an unsuccessful resolution in 2013 to ask that voters set a salary for legislators equivalent to the state’s median income.

And some Republicans have expressed support for the idea, acknowledging the current system of doling out a per diem means many people simply cannot afford to take time off work to serve in the Legislature.