GOP nominee Ronchetti touts economic plan during Farmington visit

Candidate's eight-point plan highlighted by tax cuts, oil and gas rebate

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • Mark Ronchetti was in Farmington July 26-27 to tout his plan, meeting with local auto dealers, oil and gas executives and Mayor Nate Duckett.
  • Ronchetti said he has been working on the plan since launching his campaign in October 2021.
  • The economy and inflation are the main points of concern among the New Mexicans he has encountered on the campaign trail, Ronchetti said.

FARMINGTON − An oil and gas revenue rebate for every New Mexican. Recurring cuts to the gross receipts tax. And a spending growth regulator that would limit the size of future state government spending increases.

Those are some of the highlights of a new economic plan unveiled last week by Mark Ronchetti, the Republican nominee for governor who hopes to unseat Democratic incumbent Michelle Lujan Grisham in the November general election. Ronchetti was in Farmington July 26-27 to tout his plan, meeting with local auto dealers, oil and gas executives and Mayor Nate Duckett.

Ronchetti, who said he hoped to squeeze in a visit to the Connie Mack World Series during his visit, said he crafted his plan with the idea of easing the financial suffering of the state's working families while taking aim at what he called New Mexico's bloated state government.

Ronchetti's plan is divided into eight points, some of which feature multiple recommendations. He said he's been working on the document since launching his campaign in October 2021, consulting with former New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration Secretary and University of New Mexico Regent Tom Clifford for his budget expertise.

During a visit to Farmington in June, Ronchetti pitched his crime-fighting plan, which was highlighted by a call to end so-called catch-and-release rules for pretrial detainees and changing a 2021 state law that ended the qualified immunity legal defense in cases that included law enforcement officers and other public employees.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti discusses elements of his economic plan during a visit to Farmington on Feb. 26.

But this visit was about addressing the economy and inflation, which Ronchetti said is what the New Mexicans he has encountered on the campaign trail want to discuss.

"It's not even close," he said. "Anecdotally, when you go into a room, it's the first thing everybody's talking about. … You can see it on people's faces. We're at the point where prices are rising so quickly, there's no way to keep up."

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Under the terms of his plan, Ronchetti hopes to implement a tax cut that he said would provide relief for low-income and middle-income families, while high-income earners would continue to pay a tax rate of 5.9%. Those earning $25,000 to $50,000 a year would have their state income tax bill cut by more than half, while those who make between $75,000 and $100,000 would have theirs reduced by half. Families making $100,000 to $200,000 would their tax rate reduced by more than a third.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Mark Ronchetti has unveiled an economic plan that includes an oil and gas rebate for every New Mexican, regardless of age.

Ronchetti also hopes to cut the state's gross receipts tax by 1/8 and ½ of 1% each year depending on revenue with future rate reductions built into budget plans and projections.

The second point in his eight-point plan calls for awarding all state residents a rebate each year from oil and gas revenue − $100 for every $1 billion the state receives. According to Ronchetti's plan, at current levels, that would amount to $500 a year for every recipient.

The third point consists of what he described as a "small business rescue plan" that includes a series of property, gross receipts and income tax cuts or eliminations for those businesses.

"The first three points would be the biggest" elements of his plan, Ronchetti said, while noting that many parts of the plan are tied together and would be more effective if adopted as a whole.

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Ronchetti said the annual oil and gas rebate is modeled after a similar program in Alaska, but he said the rebate he is proposing is more modest than that state's rebate, which typically exceeds $1,000.

He described the tax cuts aimed at lower- and middle-income families as critical to the overall success of his economic plan.

"The key to this plan is we're working with a surplus," he said, referring to the fact that the Legislature passed an $8.47 billion spending bill in February, the largest in the state's history, which boosted state spending by nearly 14%. The bill passed with bipartisan support after New Mexico's coffers were swollen with rising oil and gas revenue last year.

Much of that increased spending went to education, health care, infrastructure and higher salaries for state employees. But Ronchetti said state government needs to reset its priorities, focusing such surpluses on putting more money in the hands of working families.

As part of his plan, Ronchetti also is calling for increasing economic development incentives for businesses that relocate to or expand in New Mexico, removing regulatory roadblocks to oil and gas development while speeding up the permitting process, and embracing an all-of-the-above energy approach that includes solar, wind, hydrogen and nuclear energy.

He also wants to restructure the way the state decides which capital improvement projects it will fund, mostly by consolidating all the positions associated with that effort to a unit at the Department of Finance and Administration.

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His plan also includes the aforementioned spending growth regulator, as well as a plan to put more of New Mexico's residents to work. The latter is designed to address the state's labor force participation rate, which he said is the third-lowest rate in the country. Ronchetti wants to cut unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks and beef up the job search requirements for those who are drawing benefits. He also wants to expand youth apprenticeship programs and enhance incentives for veteran-owned businesses.

Ronchetti's plan includes elements designed to expand the state's health care work force by reducing medical malpractice exposure for doctors and hospitals, eliminating the gross receipts tax on rural doctors, and creating incentives to lure health care providers to rural areas.

Finally, it embraces the state's recent move toward building its outdoor recreation economy by calling for a substantial investment in state parks, committing to developing the Rio Grande Trail, expanding the state's tourism advertising, and making a financial investment in Albuquerque's annual Balloon Fiesta that would result in improved parking, infrastructure, concession areas and walkways.

"I have every confidence we can get some votes on this," Ronchetti said of the chances of getting his economic package through the Legislature should he win the election.

While the odds of Ronchetti's plan finding favor with state lawmakers no doubt would be enhanced by his party taking control of the House and Senate, he believes there is a significant number of Democrats who would be moved to support parts of his plan if inflation continues to rise and fears of a recession come true.

"If so, more and more people are going to get on board with the tax cut for low-income families," he said.

State government has never been bigger or richer, Ronchetti said, and it is time for that trend to be reversed.

"There's going to have to be a reset in the relationship between the Legislature and the people of New Mexico, and I think people are ready for that reset," he said.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.