Enormous tax package may put education, public safety, health care on the chopping block

John Arthur Smith and John Bingaman

The omnibus tax package (House Bill 547) passed by the Legislature and awaiting action by the governor is sounding alarm bells for New Mexicans like us who remember what ultimately pays for tax cuts when they are made too deeply and too quickly: our kid’s education, public safety, and health care quality and access.

If enacted, this legislation would set the state back $1.1 billion every year. While that might be doable this year, it frankly won’t be when oil and gas revenues decline, which remains unequivocally the state’s major source of funding.  

You don’t need to look far to see the terrible effects such massive and abrupt tax cuts can have on our kids and families. In Kansas, huge tax reductions enacted in 2012 led to devastating cuts to education. School districts fired teachers, ended the school year early and, in some cases, closed down entire schools.  

With 56 cents on the dollar of our state’s budget dedicated to education and another 27 cents on public safety and health care, it doesn’t take an economist to see that we could be headed for Kansas-sized cuts in classrooms, hospitals, police stations, and beyond. In New Mexico, we have seen again and again the consequences that result from a significant downturn in oil and gas revenues – and they too often fall on New Mexico families. 

Governor Lujan Grisham and the Legislature have done a respectable job of making investments in education, healthcare and our economy while keeping strong reserves and setting aside some of today’s money for future years. This administration has also enacted a series of responsible and effective tax cuts over the last four years that are already saving low- and middle-income New Mexicans half a billion dollars.  

To be clear, the tax package includes many laudable policies when evaluated individually – and the Legislature deserves credit for crafting them – but taken together, they present the state with a recurring price tag that is not worth the risk to long term investments in education, health care and public safety. We need our elected officials to make decisions today that protect New Mexico families from losing services in future years.   

As the elected leader of New Mexico, Gov. Lujan Grisham has a responsibility to future generations of New Mexicans to veto this bill. At the very least, it must be carved down to a more responsible size.