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NM Lawmakers Face 'Taxing' Dilemma

January 14, 2010

SANTA FE, NM. - When New Mexico lawmakers return to Santa Fe next week, they face the same tough choices as many other states; more cuts to social services and education, or raising taxes and eliminating tax loopholes and exemptions. The Better Choices New Mexico alliance is giving lawmakers nine ideas to ponder before the session begins. The group says none of the suggestions is surprising, and together, they could help bridge the $500 million budget gap.

But first, Holly Beaumont, legislative advocate for the New Mexico Conference of Churches, says lawmakers need to get over their fear of taxes.

"To be a member of a community means that you have to make an investment in it and you have to share the cost of running it - and that's what taxes are for. So really, what we need to do is say, 'Yeah, we need to have taxes - and they need to be fair.'"

The alliance contends that the state tax system is unfair, because the poor pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthy, and that Gov. Richardson's tax cut for the highest-income residents in 2003 has cost the state millions of dollars a year since then. Beaumont says it's time to rethink that.

"We have been encouraging the Legislature and the Governor to - if not completely - then 50-50, reverse those tax cuts, and then to look at other, progressive, not regressive taxes that would generate revenue."

Beaumont thinks it will be difficult, but not impossible, to get new taxes approved this session. Those who will resist say the budget crisis is a wake-up call for the state to eliminate waste and spend less money. Better Choices New Mexico says a balanced approach that generates revenue and trims waste will be required.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NM