On a frigid Tuesday morning, Mariah Peña drove from her home at San Ildefonso Pueblo to go grocery shopping in Santa Fe with her son and little sister. Inside the Market Street supermarket, 7-year-old Damian settled onto his back in Peña’s empty shopping cart, kicking his legs up in the air in front of a case of colorful donuts. “Why should food be taxed?” Peña said. “Just trying to make it as a single mom is hard enough.”
Gov. Susana Martinez met with legislative leaders Friday morning to discuss a budget fix ahead of the upcoming special session scheduled to start next Wednesday. Martinez’s spokesman, in a statement, called the meeting “productive” and said the governor is confident her office would come to an agreement on funding the coming fiscal year, “including funding for higher education.”
“The Governor reiterated that she will not support standalone tax increases, but is hopeful that we will be able to find a bipartisan path forward on tax reform,” spokesman Michael Lonergan said. The statement potentially leaves room for tax increases as a part of a comprehensive tax overhaul similar to what state Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, spearheaded during the recent general legislative session. Martinez last week told the Santa Fe New Mexican that she would support reinstating the food tax as part of such a reform—a marked contrast from even just two months ago when she vowed to “definitely veto every tax increase on my desk.”
State House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, however, told NM Political Report that “there is still tremendous uncertainty about what sort of tax reform proposal is going to be offered during the [special] session.”
Egolf described the meeting with Martinez as “a first crack” at agreeing to a budget solution. “It wasn’t really a horse trading kind of thing,” Egolf said.
Gov. Susana Martinez would be willing to sign a food tax into law if it were part of a larger tax reform. The governor told media this after a speech at the Economic Forum of Albuquerque at the Hotel Albuquerque Wednesday. Purchases of food are exempt from the state’s gross receipts tax and have been since 2004. Those who support the exemption say the tax has a larger impact on poor New Mexicans, since food represents a higher percentage of their spending. Martinez did say she would oppose the food tax as a “standalone piece,” according to both the Albuquerque Journal and the Santa Fe New Mexican.
If the state of New Mexico wants to get back on solid financial footing it has to take on some sacred cows, according to Sen. Ron Griggs. Griggs, a Republican who is the former mayor of Alamogordo, calls the omnibus tax bill he is sponsoring the start of that conversation. The bill not only brings back the gross receipts tax on food and medicine — albeit at a lower rate — but it raises the fee to transfer ownership of a motor vehicle and imposes a new fee to transfer or refinance real estate. Senate Bill 343 would also reduce the corporate income tax, eliminate taxes on interest income, which would benefit retirees over 55, and help cities and counties with their budget challenges. Large, complicated tax measures have not always fared well in the Legislature.
Media coverage of planned tax legislation has so far focused on one hot-button topic of the proposal—reinstating a state tax on food. Santa Fe Archbishop John C. Wester and advocacy groups like New Mexico Voices for Children have vocally opposed the idea. But the two state representatives behind the proposal have not actually filed any legislation on the matter for the session that begins in January. Legislators could begin introducing bills on Dec. 15.
Delaying or freezing corporate income tax cuts and across-the-board budget cuts are two of the most popular proposals for bridging the state’s large budget deficit. That comes from a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling for NM Political Report. Respondents were asked to choose from a list of five options for balancing the budget. The options were “Delaying or freezing corporate income tax cuts,” “bringing back taxes on food and medicine,” “increasing the state gasoline tax,” “cutting education spending” and “enacting across-the-board spending cuts.”
After choosing their top choice, respondents were also asked to choose a second-best option from the same list. In both cases, respondents saw delaying incoming corporate income tax cuts delay and enacting across-the-board spending cuts as the two most popular choices.
There are few proposals in New Mexico that will draw quicker opposition than reimposing the food tax. 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.
Amber Wallin, MPA, is the KIDS COUNT Program Director for NM Voices for Children. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all of the blessings we enjoy—our families, our health, and the bounty of our good earth and beautiful state. It’s also a time that many of us think about those who are less fortunate and a time to donate to the charities that help them. But hard times know no season, and many New Mexicans experience hunger throughout the year. These people—many of them children, seniors, and hard-working parents—already live on the margins, often just one financial setback away from disaster.
RUBE RENDER is the Curry County Republican Chairman and a local columnist with the Clovis News Journal. In a recent edition of the “Journal of Medical Ethics” two Oxford University medical ethicists argue that “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”
This leads them to the conclusion that parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed, as ending their lives is no different than an abortion. Whenever some print media covers the abortion issue, they always put scare quotes around the “so called” partial-birth abortion. One reason they do this is that to call the killing of a fully formed baby in the birth canal what it actually is would be murder. Several states have passed legislation that bans abortion after 20 weeks and the New Mexico Legislature attempted it once again during its just-completed 60-day session.