HB173: The Rural Infrastructure Crisis Response Act is scheduled to be heard in the House Rural Development, Land Grants, and Cultural Affairs committee, February 8 at 9:00 am. We stand in strong support of this bill introduced by Representative Roger E. Montoya.
Representative Montoya said, “For too many of our rural communities, when a crisis event occurs affecting critical infrastructure or equipment, they can’t pay to repair or fix these problems. This creates a public health, safety and environmental scenario. The RICRA fund provides immediate financial assistance to our rural communities, villages and tribes to the tune of $250,000,000 dollars over the next ten years.”
To read and follow this bill click here.
SB 147: Ambulance Services Fund sponsored by Senator Pete Campos has not made traction for the 2nd time at legislation. The bill would provide much needed ambulance funding for rural New Mexican municipalities. We spoke with the Senator last Friday at the roundhouse. His opinion was not optimistic that this bill would move through. Hopefully it will be rewritten and supported for next year’s session.
Legislators dawdle on repeal of Social Security tax / Santa Fe New Mexican
By Milan Simonich
Feb 6, 2022
Thanks to corporate lobbyists, New Mexico legislators might never pick up a check at the Bull Ring, Rio Chama or any other upscale restaurant where they assemble.
It’s just one reason lawmakers will trip over one another to accommodate corporate titans. But foot-dragging is a statehouse specialty when it comes to helping ordinary people keep a few more dollars in their pockets. For instance, New Mexico is one of only 12 states that tax Social Security benefits of many recipients. Six bills this year propose to eliminate the tax, in whole or in part. None are on the verge of passing, and less than two weeks remain in the legislative session. Frustrated residents say the Legislature is hurting people with this system. They’re right. The federal government taxes the Social Security benefits of many recipients, and personal income was taxed during a worker’s career. One woman told me yet another tax by New Mexico jarred her. “My husband and I moved to Santa Fe almost four years ago from Washington state to be close to family and grandchildren,” she said. “State taxes in general are new to us, but we were not prepared to face taxes on our Social Security. We have already paid taxes on the money New Mexico taxes.”
The system is one reason sun-splashed New Mexico has had almost no growth. It added 60,000 people statewide from 2010-20. Neighboring Arizona and Colorado have healthier economies, in part because they are kinder to retirees. Arizona doesn’t tax Social Security income. Colorado last year eliminated Social Security taxes on every recipient who’s 65 or older. A bill by Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, would make New Mexico more competitive with those border states. Padilla’s measure, Senate Bill 108, is brief and clean. It would exempt Social Security benefits from the state income tax.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is backing Padilla’s measure, but it still hasn’t reached a fast track. Democratic senators often use closed-door caucus meetings to dicker over tax exemptions. Senators aren’t alone in dragging out what should be an easy bill. State revenues this year are robust, and the House of Representatives just approved a state budget increase of almost 14 percent. But some House Democrats are still hostile toward ending taxes on Social Security benefits. Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan, was part of a bloc that succeeded for a time in bottling up a bill similar to Padilla’s. Alcon claimed repealing the tax on Social Security income would only help the wealthy.
Alcon just voted against reducing 175 percent annual interest rates charged by storefront loan companies. His stand would help rich out-of-state corporations continue gouging the poor, but he finds time to whine about eliminating the tax on Social Security income.
Alcon’s stand for taxing Social Security disregards not only the middle class but also some disabled people. The state Aging and Long-Term Services Department points out seniors and disabled adults who receive Social Security can be in a taxable income bracket if they have other sources of income. In times when costs are rising for housing, groceries, utilities and fuel, a tax exemption on Social Security would help people live a bit more comfortably. That is what Padilla’s bill is all about.
His proposal should already have been approved. Some lawmakers will claim they are only being diligent, but I’ve seen their recklessness on bills far more complex than Padilla’s.
Legislators once took less than an hour to approve a tax cut for corporations. It was a sloppy and convoluted bill that sailed through in one of the dirtier political shenanigans in state history. Thrown together on blind faith during the last day of the 2013 legislative session, the measure reduced the corporate tax from 7.6 percent to 5.9 percent across five years. Hacks in then-Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration vouched for the measure’s soundness. Tom Clifford, who was Martinez’s secretary of finance, assured lawmakers the tax package would be an economic plus for New Mexico in its first five years. He miscalculated badly, later admitting the tax cuts cost New Mexico $70 million in one year.
The bill to slash taxes on businesses had no staff analysis. In contrast, the bill to repeal state taxes on Social Security has been studied carefully.
One tidbit shows that someone inside the legislative staff doesn’t like the bill any more than Alcon does.
A financial analysis last year stated that repealing the tax on Social Security benefits would cost the state $83 million. This year’s analysis lists the loss in revenue at $118 million. That’s a 42 percent jump in one year in a state with no growth. Lawmakers and bureaucrats bend statistics in more directions than a jungle gym. But they can’t obscure two points. Padilla’s bill would help the little guy. And if it provided more money to a few well-to-do people, that’s still a better system than all the legislative deal-making done over dinner and drinks.