The 60-day legislative session ended Saturday with a down-to-the-wire agreement on a sweeping tax bill that will raise rates on e-cigarettes and new vehicles while nearly doubling an income tax credit for some families. The scaled-back version of House Bill 6 approved by the Senate in the last 20 minutes before the final bang of the gavel was a fitting end to a session dominated for better or worse by the state’s financial outlook. Driving the session was a whopping budget surplus and the substantial increases in funding for education that it has financed. An oil boom generated the windfall, but there was fear among several lawmakers about what might befall New Mexico if fickle energy markets take a turn. For Republicans and even some skeptical lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, the tax bill represented a sort of “only in Santa Fe” paradox, with newly elected Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham looking to raise revenues at the same time that the state had a surplus of $1 billion this year.
For the second time this month, the Bernalillo County Commission voted against adding a campaign public financing question to the November ballot. The provision would have asked Albuquerque voters to decide whether voters would be able to give some additional public money to publicly-funded mayoral and city council candidates through a voucher program called Democracy Dollars. With only four of the five commission in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting, the vote came down to a tied 2-2 vote, meaning the proposal failed. The special meeting came after the commission voted 3-2 last week against adding Democracy Dollars and a provision that would lead to changing city election dates to the general election ballot in November. At the urging of Democracy Dollars supporters, four commissioners agreed to hold a special meeting to hear more public comment and reconsider adding the proposal to the ballot.
Last year as hardcore band Cipher took the stage in Philadelphia, the group’s frontman, Maurice “Moe” Mitchell, took a moment to call for unity. “The hardcore scene, and I grew up in the hardcore scene, was a rare space where people of all different race, class, gender, expression, create a community together,” Mitchell told the crowd. That rare message in today’s political climate is one that Mitchell seems to take with him everywhere, including as an organizer for Black Lives Matter and, more recently, as the national director for the Working Families Party. Mitchell came to New Mexico this week as part of a “national blitz” and said he plans to take what he learned in the grassroots world of progressive organizing and apply it to the more-distinctly-organized world of political campaigns. “When you’re coming from a very, sort of, top-down staff model, it can be very scary to give that much latitude to people you may not even know,” Mitchell said of how political groups are typically structured.
The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners voted on Tuesday against adding a public finance proposal to the November general election ballot. The proposal, known as Democracy Dollars, would provide vouchers to citizens, who could apply them to publicly-financed candidates of their choice. While the commission only voted on whether the measure would be on the November 2018 ballot for Albuquerque residents, commissioners mostly criticized the merits of the proposal itself. Executive Director of Common Cause New Mexico Heather Ferguson called the 3-2 vote an “overstep” and “overreach” by commissioners. “What the commission decided to do tonight is to question the will of the voters who knew and understood the program they were signing,” Ferguson said.
Albuquerque voters are one step closer to voting on a change to the city charter that would increase city funds to some municipal candidates. At a press conference outside city hall on Tuesday, a coalition of local non-profits announced they collected nearly 28,000 petition signatures aimed at getting a public finance voucher program on the general election ballot in November. The proposed program, called Democracy Dollars and more recently dubbed Burque Bucks, would provide each Albuquerque resident a $25 voucher to contribute to the publicly-financed candidate of their choice. Former state senator Dede Feldman is a proponent of the proposal. The Albuquerque Democrat said political races get bogged down in high-spending corporations and political special interest groups.
The Working Families Party tapped a former State Senator and Albuquerque City Councilor to head the organization in New Mexico. The progressive group made the announcement just before Labor Day that Eric Griego is the group’s new state director. “As an elected official and community leader, Eric had one of the strongest records in New Mexico of standing by working families even when others in both parties wavered,” SouthWest Organizing Project Executive Director Javier Benavidez said. Benavidez is also on the board of the state’s Working Families Party. The Working Families Party is active in nine other states and the District of Columbia.
A new progressive group is stepping into two legislative races in districts with large Native American populations. The Working Families Party announced support for two incumbents: Representative Wonda Johnson and Senator Benny Shendo. Both Democrats are facing a challenge in Tuesday’s primary against more conservative opponents. The organization is airing radio ads supporting the candidates. Former State Rep. Stephanie Maez told NM Political Report the Working Families Party chose to support Johnson and Shendo because of their past support for “progressive policy positions.”
She also said that the organization would add more endorsements for the general election.