News from the Session: April 2010 Newsletter
After some much needed time to reflect, I write to report on the 2010 regular and special legislative sessions – the two most difficult sessions I have been through in my six years as a state legislator.
For those of you in the Santa Fe area, Representative Brian Egolf and I are hosting two upcoming town halls which I invite you to attend – details below.
Very Best Wishes,
PASSING A BALANCED BUDGET BILL REQUIRED
A HERCULEAN EFFORT
New Mexico state government is facing the worst fiscal crisis in its history with no real end in sight. The national economic downturn and lower energy prices make the increased spending and tax cuts of the 2002 to 2008 period unsustainable. Since increased spending and tax cuts led to this predicament, it is my opinion that a similar balance of reduced spending and increased revenues are the only way to get us out. As you might imagine when the status quo is forced to change, special interests on all sides amplify the pressures we face as Legislators to a fevered pitch.
Working together in this toxic environment, the Democrats, progressive and conservative, Senate and House, passed a balanced state budget through a combination of targeted spending cuts and increased revenue measures.
Was the budget compromise crafted during the special session perfect? Absolutely not. I had real problems voting to increase the gross receipts tax on any items, including food, given how regressive this tax is and the high rates which already exist in our communities. Loopholes giving multi-state corporations unfair tax advantages should have been closed and those individuals who benefitted most during our boom years should have contributed more. With yet another string of DWI tragedies in northern New Mexico, it is hard to argue against increasing the liquor excise tax.
Yet, the compromise bill passed within the confines of the Governor’s proclamation did broaden the compensating tax which helps our New Mexico businesses. The bill eliminated a personal income tax deduction allowed in a handful of states which primarily impacts higher income earners. The bill raised the cigarette tax by seventy-five cents. And, with the Governor’s veto of the local food tax, the package ultimately was less regressive but the state lost sixty-eight million recurring dollars.
The challenge as we move forward will be finding the recurring revenues to support the State’s programmatic needs. Certainly, additional cuts will also be a central part of the discussion. I am extremely concerned, however, that more cuts to public schools will have dire consequences to the future economic growth of our state. Investing in our children is a top priority for me, and I am willing to take tough votes to ensure that our schools receive the sufficient funding they are entitled to under our state constitution.
BILLS SPONSORED AND PASSED:
Governor Richardson signed three of the bills I sponsored into law: Senate Bill 2 strengthens New Mexico’s domestic violence statutes by focusing on intimate relationships and elder abuse. Senate Bill 6 creates a much needed new District Court Judge for Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties. Senate Bill 216 eliminates an extremely confusing and misleading jury plea and verdict in criminal cases involving defendants with mental health issues. You can find a list of the bills I introduced at the following link:
THE FIGHT CONTINUES
Tougher DWI Penalties: Working hand in hand with Santa Fe youth from our local high schools, Governor Richardson and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Senate Bills 3, 4 and 5 sought to toughen our DWI statutes and close loopholes letting convicted drunk drivers avoid DWI penalties. While it is frustrating these bills did not pass, they did keep the focus on the DWI issue. To truly stop DWIs, we have to increase treatment funding and make sure the penalties and punishment are in place to deter this totally unacceptable conduct.
Domestic Partnerships: I was honored to sponsor Senate Bill 183 granting domestic partners contractual rights and responsibilities. This 816 page bill meticulously went through each New Mexico statute granting spousal rights and created a parallel right for domestic partners, separate from marriage. State sponsored discrimination of any kind is wrong and I am confident this law will eventually pass.
Predatory Lending. It is outrageous that New Mexico has no interest cap or usury law of any kind for installment loans. Senate Bill 33 was an attempt to set a reasonable cap and create a data base to allow for smart regulation of this industry. With the support of Lt. Governor Diane Denish, I am committed to putting a stop to predatory lending practices in New Mexico.
Corporate Tax Equity. It is time to close the corporate tax loophole that gives out of state corporations an unfair advantage over our local New Mexico businesses. We are the last Western state with a corporate tax that still allows this practice. For six years I have introduced the bill to correct this inequity. For six years intense corporate lobbying has killed the bill. Be assured I will continue this fight to make all corporations doing business in New Mexico play by the same rules.
Your input, ideas and opinions are invaluable. I can be reached at either of my two e-mail addresses, my legislative address at email@example.com, and my web address firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at my law office (505) 988-1668 ext. 104.
It is a tremendous honor to serve and I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to represent Senate District 25 in the state legislature.
6:30-8 p.m. Mike’s Music Exchange
7 Caliente Road (across from the Agora Shopping Center)
6-8 p.m. Santa Fe Community Convention Center
201 W. Marcy Street (Lamy/Peralta rooms)