Election Day in New Mexico resulted in a slight expansion of the state’s Senate, and a very slightly reduced, but still large, House Democratic majority. But while New Mexico voters cast their votes on Tuesday, voters in neighboring Arizona voted overwhelmingly to legalize recreational-use cannabis, something the New Mexico Legislature has not been able to pull off, despite years of attempts.
Arizona may be at least a year away from seeing any significant tax revenue from legalized cannabis, but the proposition included an expungement provision and will allow medical cannabis dispensaries to start selling it for recreational-use by next spring, just as the New Mexico Legislature is set to wrap up their regular legislative session.
Listen: A special episode of Growing Forward
Whether social and restorative justice or tax revenue is most important seems to be a matter of opinion among proponents and advocates. But most agree that it is imperative that New Mexico lawmakers legalize recreational-use cannabis next year if they want to achieve parity with the neighboring state to the west.
What’s at stake
In the past several years, legalization efforts have stalled in the Senate, which has been more consevative on many issues, including cannabis. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe said he’s optimistic the Senate seats Democrats picked up on Election Day will help get a cannabis legalization bill to the governor’s desk.
“No question our landscape has changed internally in the Senate with seven new members and voters having spoken loudly and clearly,” Wirth said. “One of the issues that I’ve been very cognizant about is not losing the opportunity to move forward with recreational cannabis.
The Roundhouse, January 2011: Flanked by colorful bouquets, a pink and white corsage pinned to her dark blue suit, Gov. Susana Martinez invoked the blossoming of a new era for New Mexico in her first State of the State address. She was the nation’s first Latina governor, soon to be named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. She had a plan for New Mexico and intended to execute it with a prosecutor’s precision. Her message: New Mexico was in a state of financial crisis. “No more shell games,” she announced to applause.
Billions of taxpayer dollars have flowed out of state since 2013 due to government purchases that are not filled — or cannot be filled — by New Mexico companies, a Searchlight New Mexico analysis finds. Over the past five years, 43 cents of every dollar the state paid companies and consultants went outside New Mexico’s borders, according to Searchlight’s analysis. That price tag stands at $3.2 billion and is growing. According to the state’s own data, spending on outside vendors grew faster than spending on in-state vendors over the past five years of Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration. That dynamic is unlikely to change without a significant overhaul of the state’s economy, according to several experts interviewed for this article.
An economist says that the new U.S. House Republican healthcare plan would increase costs of health care for New Mexico and increase the uninsured rate in the state. The analysis focused on the impact on Medicaid in the state. New Mexico may not have to deal with the potential of an Affordable Care Act repeal for awhile, since the latest attempt by the House to pass the legislation seems as dead on arrival as the previous effort last month. Kelly O’Donnell, an economist with the Robert Wood Johnson Center of Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, wrote a report on the impacts of the American Healthcare Act, known by some as Trumpcare, which was released Thursday. The report found that the bill, which would restructure Medicaid into a block-grant system, would impact over 265,000 New Mexicans who gained coverage through the Medicaid expansion from the Affordable Care Act as well as those who previously qualified for Medicaid.
Dozens of protesters shouted, “Shame!” as Bernalillo County commissioners voted against three appeals of a planned community on Albuquerque’s Westside. The votes to reject the appeals all came on 3-2 votes as protesters, including those from the Contra Santolina Working Group, chanted to show their displeasure on Thursday night. Commissioners Art De La Cruz, Lonnie Talbert and Wayne Johnson voted to reject the appeals while commissioners Debbie O’Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins voted for the appeals. The appeals heard at the meeting were filed by the South Valley Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, the South Valley Regional Association of Acequias and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. Each appeal protested the Bernalillo County Planning Commission’s recommendation to approve the Santolina master plan for a variety of reasons, including a lack of transparency with how Santolina will use water resources, disagreements over Santolina’s job promises, a perceived inconsistency with the Mid-Region Council of Governments’ future transportation plans and more.
This week, New Mexico Political Report takes an in-depth look at commercial development plans west of the Rio Grande, which include the controversial Santolina master plan. Toward the end of the story, we mention the potential use of tax dollars to pay for development, specifically through what are called Tax Increment Development Districts (TIDDs) and Property Improvement Districts (PIDs). Santolina, a 13,700-acre planned community that plans to house nearly 93,000 people is seeking both TIDDs and PIDs to pay for its development. It’s an idea that Juan Reynosa, a field organizer for Southwest Organizing Project, is quoted as criticizing in today’s story: “They want to use taxpayer dollars to develop that land and sell it,” Reynosa said. This morning, the Albuquerque Journal takes a further look into how Santolina is planning to use these tax mechanisms, which reporter Dan McKay describes as “esoteric:”
Here’s how they work: • Whatever tax revenue the land is generating now is considered the “base” and isn’t part of the tax increment.
When it comes to divisive central New Mexico land development issues, the planned community of Santolina gets all the attention. But other projects to expand Albuquerque’s West Side are also quietly moving forward. Tucked in the many provisions included in this year’s reauthorization of previous year’s capital outlay projects is an extension of a bypass road west of Albuquerque. Currently, the Paseo del Volcan bypass extends from Unser Boulevard to Highway 550 in Rio Rancho. This year, the state Legislature approved funds to purchase right of way for the unfinished portion of Paseo del Volcan from Unser Boulevard to Interstate 40.