Editorial: Looking to Senate for budget agreement
With 22 days left in the legislative session, clear lines are starting to be drawn on the New Mexico budget.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives, on a straight party-line vote, approved a $6.1 billion spending bill. The budget bill is dependent on a package of tax hikes that was passed in separate legislation, which is the primary cause of the rift along party lines.
“Our state is in uncharted times financially. If we refuse to create a more fair tax policy, we will only sink further into fiscal abyss,” said Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, acting chairman of the House Tax and Revenue Committee.
“Santa Fe has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. We can meet our current obligations without forcing New Mexicans to send more of their hard-earned money to the state,” countered Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque.
The tax bill will generate an estimated $212 million in fiscal year 2018 and $214 million in FY 2019, according to House Democrats. It would end the current tax exemption on internet sales, reduce credits and deductions for some medical providers, impose a new fee on heavy trucks and increase the excise tax on new and used car and truck sales from 3 percent to 4 percent.
Republicans proposed a package of spending cuts that would take money that has been appropriated for capital outlay building projects throughout the state, put a temporary hold on film tax credit payments and sweep money from the Legislative Retirement Fund.
Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, chairwoman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, argued that her committee was able to “work very well together” in crafting the budget. But it is disappointing that they were unable to reach agreement.
The budget now moves over to the Senate, which has traditionally been able to achieve bipartisan support over the years.
Lawmakers will need to raise about $125 million in new revenue to avoid having to make new budget cuts, according to the most recent consensus revenue estimate. The goal is also to begin building back reserves that have been depleted in the past two years.
With the change from Republican to Democratic control in the House this year, Democrats now have the ability to push legislation through without a single Republican vote. But Gov. Susana Martinez will be waiting with her veto pen if they do.
She may be waiting with her veto pen even if the Senate is able to forge a compromise with Republican buy-in. But they are our best hope now.
We believe Gentry is mistaken. That state clearly does have a revenue problem, and has for the past three years. We don’t mean to suggest that tax hikes are the only solution. But we believe lawmakers should consider all potential solutions, as should Gov. Martinez.
Work on that is underway now in the Senate.