Federal government extends Real ID requirements again

Those who need to update their driver’s licenses or identification cards before the REAL ID enforcement date have two more years to become compliant. The Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, announced on Monday an extension to the REAL ID full enforcement date by two years to May 7, 2025. This means that states have more time to ensure their residents have driver’s licenses and identification cards that meet security standards set forth in the REAL ID Act of 2005. These are the requirements necessary to board airplanes or enter some federal facilities. Once the May 7, 2025 deadline passes, federal agencies including Transportation Security Administration will not accept driver’s licenses and identification cards that are not REAL ID compliant, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security news release states.

Senate committee backs tax cuts supported by governor

In a bipartisan vote, a Senate committee late Thursday endorsed an omnibus tax bill that would free most seniors from New Mexico’s income tax on Social Security benefits and would reduce the gross receipts tax rate by a quarter percent. While the bill still faces other hurdles in the final days of the legislative session, the 9-1 vote by the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee marked a big win for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, whose legislative priorities include exempting Social Security benefits from the state’s personal income tax and cutting the gross receipts tax rate. “The governor is committed to putting more money back in New Mexicans’ pockets, and we’re glad to see her priorities moving forward,” Nora Meyers Sackett, Lujan Grisham’s press secretary, wrote in an email after the vote. The bill also would extend the sunset on the state’s new solar market development income tax credit by eight years and increase the cap to $12 million from $8 million. “This is a significant package of tax changes and incentives, and combined, they will help the economy, help the environment and help reduce the tax burden on our residents and businesses,” said Jon Clark, deputy secretary of the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

Effort to eliminate Social Security tax gains momentum

The push to eliminate New Mexico’s income tax on Social Security benefits is gaining traction at the Roundhouse. Two senators, Democrat Michael Padilla of Albuquerque and Republican David Gallegos of Eunice, introduced separate bills Thursday that would eliminate the tax on Social Security income. Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, previously introduced a bill to repeal the tax, but it would still affect higher earners and increase the tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products to make up the loss in state revenue. Padilla said his proposal, Senate Bill 108, has been endorsed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who called on lawmakers Tuesday during her State of the State address to end the tax and whose office issued a news release late Thursday reiterating the request. “We have never had a better opportunity to eliminate income taxes on Social Security like we do right now,” Padilla said.

Bills to exempt Social Security from tax tabled

The House Taxation and Revenue Committee tabled two bills Friday that proposed to eliminate or reduce the state’s tax on Social Security income. Key legislators had previously voiced support for House Bills 29 and 77, and the majority of public attendees who spoke favored it at Friday’s committee hearing. Yet Democratic and Republican legislators alike said they were worried about altering the tax without having a plan to replace lost revenue. 

“You can’t have it both ways. Somewhere you have to pay the piper,” said Rep. Jim Trujillo, a Santa Fe Democrat and co-chair of the committee. “Let’s find a way to pay for it so we don’t create a hole in the general fund.”

On the (hiking) trail with Heinrich

Last weekend, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and his wife Julie pulled up to an Albuquerque trailhead and were greeted by a group of eager supporters with hiking poles and hydration packs at the ready. Almost immediately, Heinrich became an impromptu trail guide, educating his constituents on the different native plants along the trail and which animals use them as food sources. At least twice, unsuspecting hikers recognized the affable sportsman who has worked in Washington, D.C. since 2009. One family hiking towards the top of the trail passed the Heinrich entourage on its way back to the trail head. As the two groups converged, one woman looked at Heinrich and asked, “Is it really you?

ABQ widower from same-sex marriage denied social security benefits

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is asking the Social Security Administration to change a policy that states a couple must be married for nine months before a spouse is able to collect benefits from the deceased partner. The letter stems from and specifically references an Albuquerque man who was denied federal benefits earned by his deceased husband. Anthony Gonzales* married Mark Johnson in a downtown Albuquerque mass wedding ceremony** in August 2013 that celebrated the first day of legal same-sex marriage recognition in Bernalillo County. Just six months later, Johnson died from cancer. After his husband’s death, Gonzales applied for survivors benefits through the federal Social Security Administration.

Lujan Grisham wants Social Security office move delayed

Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham is asking the head of the Social Security Administration to suspend a move of an office to a downtown Albuquerque call center. The move is scheduled for August 3, less than a week from today but Lujan Grisham says a lack of parking and outreach over the move shows that this should be delayed. Lujan Grisham wrote a letter to U.S. Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin requested the delay and noted she had previously told Regional Commissioner Sheila Everett about her concerns in a previous visit. New Mexico Political Report spoke with Lujan Grisham about the surprise visit she made to the current offices in early July. The second-term member of Congress described people waiting outside with “no shade, no chairs, no benches, no anything.”

Lujan Grisham wants answers for problems at Social Security office

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham put her undercover hat back on and experienced the long lines at a Social Security Administration office in downtown Albuquerque. The second-term member of Congress initially wrote about her experience on her Facebook page on Monday evening. Later Monday evening, New Mexico Political Report caught up with the Democrat from Albuquerque before she got ready for an early morning flight back to Washington D.C.

Lujan Grisham showed up to the offices at 7:00 a.m. and joined the line. She did not inform the workers that she would be there in an attempt to not get any preferential treatment. She said that it was a three hour wait and that this was “the best way to get their attention.” “It is unbelievable to me that there seems to be little or no compassion in that environment,” she said.