At our April PDA meeting Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Rep. Daymon Ely, and Rep. Liz Thompson gave an update on the last session of the legislature and the status of bills passed.
The hardworking legislature passed a budget bill designed to get us through the rest of this fiscal year until 7-1-17. They did this by robbing all the reserves, bringing the state to zero in reserve balance, and plugging an $89 million shortfall.
Then they tackled the FY 2018 budget. Refusing to continue the Governor’s mantra of cut til it bleeds profusely, they initiated 5 new and very reasonable taxes:
1. An internet tax (yield $20-30 million). (Amazon accounts for about 95% of this revenue, and will pay this voluntarily, fortunately for us )
2. A hospital tax, which the hospitals asked for. Yield is $70 million. $26 million would be in state Medicaid, which would be matched 3:1 by the Feds, resulting in $78 million received.
3. A truckers’ tax on their permits $5 going to $50. This is an annual fee. Chicken feed for the truckers and also minimal revenue.
4. Gasoline tax (Yield $20 million)
5. Motor Vehicle Excise tax increase of 1% on car sales (for reserves, and then road repairs when reserves are back to 5%).
The total of these taxes was $260 million, which along with an austere budget, was sent to the Governor as a balanced budget. Part of the money would also go to restore a little bit of the reserves, and help our falling bond rating.
Of course, she vetoed the whole thing, vetoed $788 million for higher ed (about 40-50 % of their entire schools’ budgets), vetoed dozens of bi-partisan bills passed by wide margins, and held an angry press conference ( SEE KOB REPORT ) announcing a future special session for legislators to come back and cut- cut -cut til we bleed again. Why does Susana hate New Mexicans? Even the Republicans quietly dislike her, but are also scared of her.
Bills vetoed also included a modest increase in minimum wage (far from the $15/hour that progressives favor), supported by both parties and business, a bill putting limits on use of solitary confinement, industrial hemp industry (which may be a voided veto), medical marijuana expansion, campaign finance reform, and others that would have helped our state. There was a lot of good progressive legislation this year that was vetoed, or, once again, never made it out of committee.
WHAT ACTION CAN WE TAKE?
Democratic legislators wrote an editorial piece READ HERE emphasizing their willingness to hold the line on their budget. We can support them by contacting Republican legislators, espeically if we live in one of their districts.
There is no word on a special session yet, but according to Ely and Ortiz y Pino Democrats need to call the Republican Representatives in Districts 7, 8, 15, 29, and 30 in Bernalillo and Valencia Counties and tell them to override the Governor’s veto when called in tospecial session. The Democrats intend to introduce the same budget bill and vote on it again. We need 4 Republicans to vote with the Democrats on the budget override.
Talking points include the reasonableness of the above taxes, and the fact that this budget does not cut teachers salaries or state employee salaries. Both of these groups have gone years without a pay increase. In addition, they have been asked to fund more of their own retirement, which is essentially a pay cut for them. The Governor’s version of the budget calls for furlough days for state workers and teachers as well as other salary cuts.
THANK YOU TO ALL PDA MEMBERS FOR TAKING THIS FIGHT ON!!