Only a couple of proposed constitutional amendments make it to voters

Legislators sought to start the process to change the state constitution with several pieces of legislation this year. The proposals sought to place constitutional amendments on the 2024 general election ballot. 

Only two made it through the system: HJR 5, which would extend the property tax exemption for disabled veterans, and HJR 6, which would increase property tax exemptions for honorably discharged service members. HJR 5 extends the property tax exemption, currently only available for those veterans who are 100 percent disabled and their widows or widowers to allow those that are under 100 percent disabled and their widows or widowers to qualify for the exemption. “The amount of the exemption shall be in a percentage equal to the percentage of the veteran’s disability rating determined pursuant to federal law,” the legislation states. Similarly, HJR 6 would increase the property tax exemption for honorably discharged service members and their widows or widowers from $4,000 to $10,000 with an annual adjustment based on inflation.

Sen. Craig Brandt talks about Glory's Law during a press conference. Other speakers included, from left to right, Glory's mother Christy Sellers, UNM Head Football Coach Danny Gonzales and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales.

School supplies tax rebate bill discussed

A bill that would help offset the costs teachers pay to equip their students was discussed in its first committee Tuesday. SB 28, which will provide a tax deduction for teachers who buy school supplies for their classrooms was held pending further discussion in the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee Tuesday afternoon. Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, sponsored the bill. 

The bill provides teachers up to $500 in tax deductions for school supply purchases in Fiscal Year 2024 and it doubles to $1,000 for Fiscal Year 2025 and onward. The standard school supplies— such as paper, pencils and protractors— are covered but the higher cost items such as electronics are not covered for the deduction. Funding for the tax deduction would come from the general fund and would cost $320,000 in FY 24 and $640,000 for FY25 onward.

Proposed Ronchetti tax plan discussed

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti has proposed a tax plan that includes tax cuts that his main general election opponent says is not feasible. The proposed tax plan includes permanent tax cuts for middle and low-income workers, rebates from state income from oil and gas, economic incentives for businesses wanting to move to New Mexico and create jobs and a small business rescue plan. The proposed plan indicates that all New Mexicans would receive $100 for every $1 billion in oil and gas revenues New Mexico receives. “Right now the state of New Mexico has one of the worst tax structures in the country for small businesses and people from all over the political spectrum agree that it needs to change,” Ronchetti campaign spokesman Ryan Sabel said in response to an inquiry from NM Political Report. “The New Mexico State Government has never been richer, and [Gov.] Michelle Lujan Grisham has grown the government by 40 percent while our people are struggling to get to the end of the month.

NM collects $2.4 million in cannabis taxes for first month of sales

The New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department announced on Friday that it has collected more than $2.4 million in cannabis excise taxes for April, which was the first month of adult-use sales in the state. 

The Cannabis Regulation Act, which was approved by the New Mexico Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last year, mandates that a 12 percent cannabis excise tax be applied to all adult-use cannabis sales. That 12 percent rate is slated to increase over the next several years. 

Adult-use cannabis sales are also subject to a state gross receipts tax which is seven to eight percent, depending on the county.  The Taxation and Revenue Department reported collecting more than $1.6 million in gross receipts taxes from adult-use cannabis sales.  

Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke said in a statement on Friday that the tax revenue so far signals a boost in state revenue. 

“The adult use cannabis industry in New Mexico clearly has gotten off to a strong start,” Schardin Clarke said. “These receipts show the industry is already diversifying our economy and our tax base.”

Adult-use cannabis retail stores paid $2,422,678 in Cannabis Excise Tax from the first month of recreational cannabis sales in New Mexico this April. 

According to the department, 114 businesses filed tax returns and 158 businesses have registered for cannabis tax accounts, but not all of them started sales by April. 

Earlier this month, Schardin Clarke told NM Political Report that the department expects to collect about $31.5 million in cannabis taxes this year. 

Both cannabis excise and gross receipts taxes were due earlier this week, but some businesses said they were caught off guard by the department’s take on how both the cannabis excise and gross receipts taxes are applied to their total sales.     

The Cannabis Regualtion Act also exempts medical cannabis sales from any taxes. 

Adult-use cannabis businesses are required to file their cannabis excise and gross receipts taxes monthly. Taxes on May sales will be due at the end of June.    

TurboTax and H&R Block saw free tax filing as a threat — and gutted it

Despite signing a deal with the IRS that pledged they would help tens of millions of Americans file taxes for free, tax software giants Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block instead deliberately hid the free option and actively steered customers into paid products, according to an internal document and five current and former employees of the companies. H&R Block explicitly instructs its customer service staff to push people away from its free offering, according to internal guidance obtained by ProPublica. “Do not send clients to this Web Site unless they are specifically calling about the Free File program,” the guidance states, referring to the site with the company’s free option. “We want to send users to our paid products before the free product, if at all possible.”

Steering customers away from TurboTax’s truly free option is a “purposeful strategy,” said a former midlevel Intuit employee. For people who find TurboTax through a search engine or an online ad, “the landing page would direct you through a product flow that the company wanted to ensure would not make you aware of Free File.”

When the Free File program launched 16 years ago, it was extolled as the best sort of collaboration between government and private enterprise.

Dem leaders, shoppers don’t want food taxed again

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.”

Beyond the compromise: How legislators and the governor balanced the budget with a dirty band-aid

For most of this year, the budget was the hottest topic for legislators and the governor. Both branches battled, then came to an agreement no one seems enthusiastic about. The deal suggested by Gov. Susana Martinez essentially amounted to using bonding money normally reserved for state infrastructure to balance the budget. State lawmakers request the bonding money for state infrastructure projects. Issuing bonds works like a home mortgage: the state borrows money backed by oil and gas revenue and pays it back with interest over the years. Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said the funding method “sets a poor precedent” while Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said he didn’t “like to do this either.”

And yet, the plan passed with a unanimous vote in the House of Representatives and just two dissenting votes in the Senate.

NM’s power structure‚ then and now

Thanks to Gov. Susana Martinez’s vetoes of the higher education and legislative budgets, hostilities between the governor’s office and legislators over taxes and next year’s budget are playing out statewide, and daily in the headlines. Soon, the two parties will be facing off in the New Mexico Supreme Court over those two line-item budget vetoes. On the surface, the battle is over the budget. It also raises deeper questions about power and control: Can one person and a handful of executive office staffers and advisers wield ultimate power over the 112 legislators elected from communities across the state? But beneath the layers of campaigns, elections and public debates, there are also powerful people, companies and industries at work behind the scenes.

Poll shows New Mexicans favor some tax increases to balance budget

A new poll finds that a majority of registered voters in New Mexico support raising taxes to make up for the state’s budget shortfalls. According to the poll, commissioned by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, registered voters do not support reducing public education funds in order to fix the state’s budget. The Center’s Executive Director Edward Tabet-Cubero said in a statement New Mexico lawmakers should take note of the poll results. “This survey demonstrates strong public opinion that the solution to this crisis should not come in the form of more cuts,” Tabet-Cubero said. The poll was conducted by Research and Polling in Albuquerque.

How corporate tax loopholes compromise our future | by Don Simonson

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]DON SIMONSON, PhD. is an Emeritus Professor of Finance at the University of New Mexico and the Treasurer for the Board of Directors of New Mexico Voices for Children. [/box]

The notion of “paying it forward” is a popular one, and while we may not think about our income taxes as a form of paying it forward, that’s exactly what we’re doing. The public works that we all depend upon today—roads and highways, schools and parks, telecommunications and electrical grids, even courts and prisons—were made possible in part by taxes paid by past generations. And the taxes we pay today won’t just go toward keeping these systems and infrastructure in good repair, they will also be needed to plan for our future and address unexpected issues and opportunities. This kind of long-term vision is the foundation upon which the United States was built.

Our public works and infrastructure don’t just improve our quality of life, they also make our modern economy possible.