February 11, 2020

Gas tax bill dies in committee

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A bill that would raise the state’s gasoline tax was tabled in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee Monday evening and is unlikely to advance in the remaining ten days of the 30-day Legislative session.

“New Mexico has the fourth lowest gas tax in the nation, and we have the third worst roads in the nation. And those two items are connected,” said bill sponsor and Democratic Rep. Matthew McQueen, who represents parts of Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Torrance and Valencia counties.

HB 173 would create a new gasoline and special fuel surtax of 10 cents per gallon, which would take effect in Fiscal Year 2021. The surtax would then increase by 5 cents per gallon annually until 2026. At that point, the state Taxation and Revenue Department would calculate a set rate for the gas tax.

The bill would divide up the proceeds of the tax between the road fund, a newly created rebate fund for low and moderate income families, and a new clean infrastructure fund.

Ranchers, farmers and other rural residents spoke out against the bill during the meeting, arguing that the gas tax would hurt rural residents that have to drive further to reach amenities such as grocery stores and schools. A number of students spoke in favor of the proposal, citing concerns about climate change and transportation emissions.

Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, commended the students for “speaking up for what they think is right for the state of New Mexico,” but said she wouldn’t support the bill.

“This is a rural versus urban situation, and I’m voting for rural,” Armstrong said.

Committee members voted 14-1 to table the proposal. Albuquerque Democrat Christine Trujillo was the only vote against tabling the bill. 

The bill had previously passed the House Taxation and Revenue Committee with a 8-5 vote along party lines earlier in the session.